Cases of acute sleeping sickness in Uganda caused by trypanosome parasite were reduced by treating 500,000 cows

Cases of acute sleeping sickness in Uganda caused by trypanosome parasite were reduced by treating 500,000 cows.
Photo: © TAO/

Cattle trial cuts human sleeping sickness

A method to stamp out human sleeping sickness by injecting cattle with a parasite-killing drug and spraying insecticide has proven effective in Uganda.

A research project run by the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom reduced cases of acute sleeping sickness among people living in the target area in Uganda by 90 per cent. But instead of treating people, it sought to eliminate the parasite in cows, which act as a host for the disease and also get a form of sleeping sickness.

The research team, which collaborated with Makerere University in Uganda and the Ugandan government, eliminated the trypanosome parasite that carries the disease by giving 500,000 cows a single injection of trypanocide and by carrying out regular insecticide spraying to prevent re-infection.

On the 9th November, the team announced that it was planning to roll out the treatment across Uganda, which would cover about 2.7 million cattle.

Stamping out sleeping sickness

According to the research team, the results were achieved as part of the Stamp Out Sleeping Sickness (SoS) campaign, created in 2006 by the University of Edinburgh, the University of Makerere, IKARE, Ceva Sante Animale and the Government of Uganda. SoS is estimated to have saved up to 400 million USD in human health care costs. It has also generated increased productivity of 25 USD per head of cattle per year in these poor communities.

“For this neglected disease, treating the infection in cattle, the source of infection to humans, offers us a double whammy: healthier people and healthier animals,” said Sue Welburn, a vice-principal at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. “By turning cows into deadly targets for tsetse flies, sleeping sickness is gradually being pushed out of communities.”

Sleeping sickness comes in both acute and chronic forms, and Uganda is host to both. The disease causes fever and daytime sleepiness, and is often fatal if not treated.

According to the World Health Organization, around 65 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are at risk from the disease.

(University of Edinburgh/SciDevNet/wi)

More information:SciDevNet

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