Vets on alert over sleep­ing sick­ness par­a­site

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT/NEWS - By L B Se­naratne

Pro­fes­sor Ashoka Dan­golla of the Univer­sity of Per­adeniya has put all vet­eri­nar­i­ans on the alert fol­low­ing dis­cov­ery of an often-fa­tal African dis­ease found in two lo­cal dogs that can be trans­mit­ted to hu­mans.

Pro­fes­sor Dan­golla said he de­tected try­panosoma in two pure­bred Ger­man shep­herd (Al­sa­tion) dogs brought to the Vet­eri­nary Hos­pi­tal at Per­adeniya from Balan­goda and Mul­laitivu.

The rapidly-trans­mit­ted dis­ease is caused by the tsetse fly and passes, like malaria, through blood. It orig­i­nates from African coun­tries and Dr. Dan­golla is mys­ti­fied as to how it was trans­mit­ted to Sri Lankan dogs. The dog from Balan­goda dog has died while the pet from Mul­laitivu has been cured. Pro­fes­sor Dan­golla said he had asked all vet­eri­nar­i­ans to be vig­i­lant as the dis­ease can be passed be­tween an­i­mals and hu­mans.

He said tests are be­ing car­ried out on blood sam­ples at the Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal in Per­adeniya by the Fac­ulty of Vet­eri­nary Medicine and the Sci­ence and Al­lied Sci­ence fac­ul­ties to de­ter­mine which species of tryphanosoma caused the dogs’ ill­ness. A re­searcher work­ing on a malaria pro­ject has also been called in.

Pro­fes­sor Dan­golla said try­panosoma was de­tected when ex­am­in­ing an in­fec­tion in the dog from Balan­goda, the first dog found to have the dis­ease.

“In cases of eye in­fec­tions, it is nor­mal to run a test to elim­i­nate try­panosoma. But this species of try­panosoma has never been de­tected in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Hu­man African try­panoso­mi­a­sis, also known as sleep­ing sick­ness, is trans­mit­ted to hu­mans through bites by the tsetse fly (Glossina genus) which have ac­quired their in­fec­tion from hu­mans or from an­i­mals har­bour­ing hu­man dis­ease-car­ry­ing par­a­sites, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) says.

“Tsetse flies are found just in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa though only cer­tain species trans­mit the dis­ease. For rea­sons that are so far un­ex­plained, in many re­gions where tsetse flies are found, sleep­ing sick­ness is not,” the WHO states.

The dis­ease oc­curs most in ru­ral pop­u­la­tions and its in­ten­sity and preva­lence varies.

“A per­son can be in­fected for months or even years with­out ma­jor signs or symp­toms of the dis­ease. When more ev­i­dent symp­toms emerge the pa­tient is al­ready in an ad­vanced dis­ease stage where the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem is af­fected,” the WHO says.

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