This tropical disease is caused by trypanosomes, single-celled parasites that are found in the blood of those afflicted.
University of Bristol researchers were able to see what the trypanosomes were getting up to inside the tsetse flies that carry the disease by using fluorescent markers.
The microscopic beasts were seen twirling and gyrating together before joining up into one hybrid cell. To tell which was which, individual trypanosomes were tagged with different colours, with the result that the hybrid cells had both colours.
The new results suggest that sex is not an optional or rare part of this microbe's life cycle, but probably happens every time two different trypanosomes find themselves together in the same tsetse fly.
Trypanosomes belong to a strange group of protozoa that includes several other medically important parasites such as Leishmania, Trichomonas and Giardia. In the past, all these microbes were thought to reproduce just by splitting in half, but now results show that they also use sex to swap genes between strains.
--ANI (Posted on 05-01-2014)