Imaging African trypanosomes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-94
Number of pages12
JournalParasite immunology
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2013 The Authors. Parasite Immunology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal/methods
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei/cytology
  • Trypanosomiasis, African/diagnosis

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