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A large step forward in the fight against African sleeping sickness

Each year, over 300,000 people die of African sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis). Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the Free University of Brussels are making strides in the battle against this disease. They have coupled the human protein ApoL-1 with a nanobody in order to very specifically eliminate the infection caused by the pathogenic parasites, against which our defense mechanism is powerless. Tests on mice are already promising. The recently published research results offer new possibilities for people who have contracted this disease. >African sleeping sickness
About 400,000 people worldwide suffer from the deadly African sleeping sickness. The disease produces severe sleep disorders that ultimately end in coma, followed by death. At present, fewer than 10% of the patients are treated in time. But on the other hand, the current treatment is also very toxic, and in many cases also results in the patient's death.

African sleeping sickness is a disorder caused by the trypanosome parasite. The blood-sucking tsetse fly transmits the parasite from person to person. Once someone has been infected by the parasite, the person's body has great difficulty getting the infection under control, because the parasite constantly changes appearance. Thus, the trypanosome remains impervious to the antibodies that the body produces.

Parasite eludes human defense mechanism
Fortunately, our body has a special defense mechanism that can help us in the fight against African trypanosomes. Our blood contains ApoL-1, which is toxic to − and neutralizes − most types of trypanosomes.

However, there is one trypanosome against which we are not protected: Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. This parasite is resistant to ApoL-1, because it has particular proteins that counteract ApoL-1's action.

For some time now, scientists have known that a variant of ApoL
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Contact: Joke Comijn
joke.comijn@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
9-Apr-2006


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