Global health R&D at work in West Virginia
Researchers at West Virginia University are studying how the parasite that causes sleeping sickness interacts with the tsetse fly whose bite spreads the disease. Though the number of cases of sleeping sickness has dropped in recent years, the disease still poses a threat to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Existing medicines can be toxic, even fatal, lending urgency to the development of new treatments. The researchers aim to understand why some tsetse flies carry the disease and others do not. They theorize that the gut bacteria in the flies affect whether the parasite survives in the fly and crosses over to humans and livestock, causing death, disability, and a heavy economic burden. A better understanding of the relationship between the fly and the parasite could open exciting new avenues for disease control.