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Scientists begin £2 million project to better understand a livestock disease that causes widespread economic hardship in sub-Saharan Africa

September 12, 2017

An international team of researchers, will seek to learn how trypanosome parasites – spread by biting tsetse flies – cause long term infections in cattle. The disease is known locally as nagana, derived from the Zulu word for ‘useless’, which highlights its impact on affected animals. In humans, related parasites cause the disease sleeping sickness.

The research, which will build on more than 40 years of study, and will focus on the two most prevalent species of parasite behind nagana in cattle – Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma vivax.

Sleeping sickness parasites are known to be masters of disguise. Once in the bloodstream, they can change the proteins on their surface to avoid being recognised and destroyed by the immune system.

Researchers will aim to improve their understanding of how the parasite operates in the real world compared with lab-based studies, and to develop novel ideas for prevention and treatment.

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, and iMM Lisboa, Heidelberg and Baltimore will pool their expertise to discover how these livestock parasites establish long-term infections through immune evasion and maximise their chances of spread. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

“Nagana is a livestock disease that greatly contributes toward poverty in Africa. This team of researchers brings valuable knowledge that will allow to find parasites’ vulnerabilities that can then be strategically used towards future treatments,” said iMM researcher Luísa Figueiredo.

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