Developing new diagnostic tests for human African trypanosomiasis

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a disease of poor rural communities caused by extracellular protozoan parasites of the genus trypanosoma. In early or Stage 1 infection when parasites are in the blood and lymphatic system, treatment is relatively safe and cheap. During this phase, however, clinical signs are not suggestive of HAT, and diagnostic tests have problems of sensitivity and specificity. Many cases, therefore, remain undetected and with time, parasites invade the brain, resulting in late or Stage 2 disease. Treatments of Stage 2 HAT are either lengthy and expensive, and difficult to administer, or cause potentially fatal side effects. Currently, tests to determine the stage of disease are non-specific and insensitive.

FIND and partners are developing and implementing tests for early and accurate diagnosis and staging of HAT patients, in order to ensure safe treatment. Other tests for early detection of treatment failure will ensure proper re-treatment, reduced transmission and accelerated control of the disease.