Manipulating parasites to overcome sleeping sickness

New York, Dec 16 : Knowing how the parasites causing sleeping sickness - where the infected person's sleeping patterns get disrupted over a period of time - communicate with one another could help limit the spread of the infection.

A new study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, carried out in collaboration with the University of Dundee, shed light on how new drugs could be designed to disrupt the flow of messages sent between these infectious microorganisms.

"Parasites are adept at communicating with one another to promote their survival in our bodies and ensure their spread - but by manipulating their messages, new ways to combat these infections are likely to emerge," said Professor Keith Matthews of University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences.

Sleeping sickness is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. If left untreated, it can damage the nervous system, leading to coma, organ failure and death.

During infection, the parasites - known as African trypanosomes - multiply in the bloodstream and communicate with each other by releasing a small molecule.

The research team was able to uncover key components of the parasites' messaging system. They used a technique known as gene silencing to identify those genes that are used to respond to the communication signals and the mechanisms involved.

The results of the research were published in the journal Nature.

--IANS (Posted on 16-12-2013)

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