London: A new research has come across horrifying evidence which links the deadly sleeping sickness with the skin.
The research has discovered that the parasite responsible for causing Human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as African sleeping sickness, can be harboured and transmitted by the skin, which is normally transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tsetse fly as it takes a blood meal.
African sleeping sickness which can often prove to be fatal if left untreated and the diagnosis, treatment and eradication of the disease would probably have to bear the brunt of the new findings.
The disease kills thousands in Sub-Saharan Africa every year, the diagnosis of which is confirmed through the presence of parasites in the blood.
The current study, published recently in the journal eLife, showed that substantial quantities of trypanosomes that cause the disease can exist within the skin and can be transmitted back to the tsetse fly vector.
"Our results have important implications with regard to the eradication of sleeping sickness. Firstly, our findings indicate that current diagnostic methods, which rely on observing parasites in the blood, should be re-evaluated and should include examining the skin for parasites," said lead researcher Annette MacLeod from University of Glasgow in Britain.
"In terms of treatment, it may also be necessary to develop novel therapeutics capable of targeting sources of infection outside the blood circulation and in the reservoirs underneath the skin," MacLeod noted.
The team of researchers from University of Glasgow's Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology and the Institut Pasteur in Paris were also able to observe the presence of parasites in human skin biopsies from individuals who displayed no symptoms.
The study's findings suggest skin-dwelling parasites could be sufficiently abundant in the skin to be ingested, transmitted and so able to spread the disease further.
(With IANS inputs)