Sleeping sickness breakthrough hailed as thousands of lives saved following fall in cases

Researchers from The University of Edinburgh discovered a method to prevent the transmission of the disease  

Shehab Khan
Monday 09 November 2015 16:48
The disease is most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa
The disease is most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa

Acute cases of sleeping sickness in rural Uganda have fallen by 90 per cent after a breakthrough in eliminating the parasite from cattle.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh tested a new approach by targeting 500,000 cows for treatment, in an effort to halt transmission to humans.

By giving the cattle a single injection of a chemical that kills parasites and carrying out regular insecticide spraying to prevent re-infection, the scientists were able to rid the livestock of the disease.

Professor Sue Welburn, the university's vice-principal global access, led the research.

She said: “For this neglected disease, treating the infection in cattle, the source of infection to humans offers us a double whammy, healthier people and healthier animals.”

Researchers claim to have already saved thousands of lives and are aiming to extend the project to all districts in the country affected by the condition.

A person contracts sleeping sickness if he or she is bitten by a fly infected with the parasite. A total of 66 million people are at risk from getting the disease.

There are between 30,000 and 50,000 new cases reported annually and around 30,000 die every year from the illness.

Initially, in the first stage of the disease, there are fevers, headaches, itchiness, and joint pains.

The disease progresses to the second stage when the when the parasite invades the central nervous system - causing confusion, poor coordination, numbness and trouble sleeping. If left untreated, the disease is always fatal.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in