Trypanosoma brucei are extracellular kinetoplastid parasites transmitted by the blood-sucking tsetse fly. They are responsible for the fatal disease human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness. In late-stage infection, trypanosomes cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and invade the central nervous system (CNS) invariably leading to coma and death if untreated. There is no available vaccine and current late-stage HAT chemotherapy consists of either melarsoprol, which is highly toxic causing up to 8% of deaths, or nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy (NECT), which is costly and difficult to administer. There is therefore an urgent need to identify new late-stage HAT drug candidates. Here, we review how current imaging tools, ranging from fluorescent confocal microscopy of live immobilized cells in culture to whole-animal imaging, are providing insight into T. brucei biology, parasite-host interplay, trypanosome CNS invasion and disease progression. We also consider how imaging tools can be used for candidate drug screening purposes that could lead to new chemotherapies.
Bibliographical note© 2013 The Authors. Parasite Immunology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- Cell Survival
- Host-Parasite Interactions
- Microscopy, Confocal/methods
- Trypanosoma brucei brucei/cytology
- Trypanosomiasis, African/diagnosis