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Symptoms of Trypanosomiasis (AKA "African Sleeping Sickness")

  • Characterized by a large indurated lesion at the site of the tsetse fly bite
  • Parasitemia, hemolymphatic involvement, and eventually invasion of the central nervous system occur
  • East African infection is more acute with early involvement of the central nervous system (after 3-4 weeks of being bitten)
  • West African infection progresses more slowly over months to years as it adapts to the host
  • Central nervous system invasion manifests as severe headache and somnolence progressing to coma
    • Changes in behavior, psychosis, tremors, ataxia, and neuroendocrine disorders
    • Sometimes focal neurologic findings or seizures are seen
  • Trypanosomes in the bloodstream evade detection by the immune system by changing the antigen structure of glycoprotein coat periodically