Similarity and difference, African Sleepng Sickness

Not dead yet!

Well-Known Member
I have a thread on the many different things that can mimic ME/CFS (Too many too similar) but this one is so similar it deserves its own thread, I think. It is both different and similar. Different because the vector is known and it is partly specific to one area of the world. Similar because the protozoa (a type of bacteria, not a virus, closer to Borrelia/Lyme than to EBV, a virus), Trypanosoma, invades the central nervous system and basically shuts it down with similarity in symptoms of lethargy, pain and brain fog, leading to unconsciousness. Different because the person can become unconscious full time and die of starvation. Only the most severe ME/CFS patients suffer that much. Third, there is a link to a semi-scholarly website, with a description that also includes the vector for the disease in the Americas.

Video 1 - Wellcome Trust historical account of Sleeping Sickness
Although it is painful to watch because of the racist nature of the earliest descriptions of sleeping sickness, this video has an account of the first appearance of it in medical writings in Europe. I will warn though that the subject can be extremely upsetting, especially the treatment of slaves with sleeping sickness. If you're feeling tender today, skip this one and just watch the second video, which is modern.

Video 2 - a modern description of Sleeping Sickness
This lays out the modern knowledge of it, the vector and the treatments, without getting into specifics about which drugs are used. I think it would be unfair to characterize this as devoid of racism, especially when we consider that basically drug companies and NGO's are deciding how an often-impoverished group of people are treated for an illness that can kill them. But it's a world apart from the previous one.

Third, I really like MicrobeWiki, and it offers a look at the version of sleeping sickness that affects some people in the Americas. Especially the vector, which they specify is the Assassin fly. This is an interesting insight to me because an assassin fly is a bit like a carnivorous fish... the longer it lives, the more toxic it becomes. if it then bites a human, it can deliver the viral, fungal, and bacterial load of many species of other insects that did NOT bite the human. MicrobeWiki is written primarily by grad students and its content may change so I'll put an excerpt here:

[article=]Description and Significance

The genus Trypanosoma contains a large number of parasitic species which infect wild and domesticated animals and humans in Africa. Commonly known as African sleeping sickness, human trypanosomiasis is caused by the species Trypanosoma brucei and is transmitted to humans through either a vector or the blood of ingested animals. The most common vector of Trypanosoma brucei is the tsetse fly, which may spread the parasite to humans and animals through bites. Through a process known as antigenic variation, some trypanosomes are able to evade the host's immune system by modifying their surface membrane, esentially multiplying with every surface change. As the disease progresses, Trypanosoma brucei gradually infiltrates the host's central nervous system. Symptoms include headache, weakness, and joint pain in the initial stages; anaemia, cardiovascular problems, and kidney disorders as the disease progresses; in its final stages, the disease may lead to extreme exhaustion and fatigue during the day, insomnia at night, coma, and ultimately death. Human trypanosomiasis affects as many as 66 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Trypanosomes are also found in the Americas in the form of Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes American human trypanosomiasis, or Chagas' disease. This disease is found in humans in two forms: as an amastigote in the cells, and as a trymastigote in the blood. The vectors for Trypanosoma cruzi include members of the order Hemiptera, such as assassin flies, which ingest the amastigote or trymastigote and carry them to animals or humans. The parasites enter the human host through mucus membranes in the nose, eye, or mouth upon release from the insect vectors. Left untreated, Chagas' disease may cause dementia, megacolon, and megaesophagus, and damage to the heart muscle, and may result in death. [/article]

(emphasis is mine)

Googling assassin flies:
(warning, gross bug pictures)

Since insects in general only live for about 2 weeks, the main parasite carriers are animals and humans that are bitten, except now there is another layer of complexity. I wonder if any entomologists are interested in ME/CFS or what they would say about the similarity.

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