Sleeping sickness war stepped up

Experts have said they may develop a more effective kit for detecting sleeping sickness and medication against the condition in the next three years.

Scientists at the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) in Nairobi and their counterparts from the European Union are currently working on what they say are more effective ways of diagnosing and treating the disease in humans, which is also known as nagana in livestock.

Scientifically, it is called trypanosomiasis.

According to the coordinator of the project, Prof Stefan Magez, the consortium of local and international research organisations will exploit already developed nanotechnology principles to create new products to confront the disease.

“The project involves training on and transfer of this new technology to Kenya and Mozambique, and mounting awareness campaigns in countries where the disease is endemic,” says Prof Magez. “Despite the high-technology approach, the technique will be relatively easy to adopt for laboratories of participating African partner groups.”

Health and veterinary officers in western Kenya have been on high alert since April this year over a possible tsetse fly re-infestation from countries neighbouring Lake Victoria. Tsetse fly is the disease’s main vector.

Irreversible disorders

If the disease is not detected early enough, it may lead to irreversible disorders in the nervous system. It also falls under the category of ailments classified by the World Health Organisation as neglected diseases.

The availability of treatment for trypanosomiasis, for example, is limited due to the fact that only very few drugs are registered for use, and all can cause serious side effects on treated patients or animals.

The disease is known to be fatal if untreated.

Copyright 2009 Daily Nation