Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Sleeping sickness or African trypanosomiasis is a disease spreading parasite which threatens millions of people in West and Central Africa.
However, the parasite causing the disease may be well on its way toward extinction, primarily owing to its sex life.
Stunned? A study has found that the sleeping sickness parasite has not had sex for more than 10,000 years.
A detailed analysis of the parasite's genome discovered its slacking libido. This showed that every sleeping sickness parasite that has ever infected humans for the past several thousand years are all descended by asexual cloning from one individual.
As per a Reuters report, Willie Weir, bioinformatician at the University of Glasgow and lead author of the study, said that, “In the near to medium term ... identifying this weakness in the parasite could help researchers find ways to develop new forms of treatment for sleeping sickness”.
Reuters further reported that the parasite "jumped" from animals into the human population within the last 10,000 years, at a time when livestock farming was developing in West Africa.
The most recent major outbreak of the disease began in the 1970s and lasted until the late 1990s.
In 1998, nearly 40,000 cases were reported, but experts estimated another 300,000 cases were undiagnozed and therefore untreated, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
By 2012, the number of new reported infections had dropped to just over 6,000.
This was similar to numbers in the mid-1960s - some 5,000 cases - after which surveillance was relaxed and the disease reappeared.
The WHO has targeted it for elimination as a public health problem by 2020.