Juan-Carlos Tomasi
In October 2004 MSF-Spain decided to open an African Trypanosomiasis project in Tambura, South Sudan. Human African Trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness is caused by a parasite (trypanosome) transmitted through the tsetse fly. A person can be infected carrying the trypanosome for months before developing any specific symptoms. When the parasite reaches the nervous system, patients develop the most typical symptoms of the diseases: neurological problems, sleep disorders and other behavioural changes that may range from confusion to madness. Without appropriate treatment, the disease is fatal.
The project in Tambura includes two components: on the one hand, treatment and follow-up of infected patients at the hospital where MSF runs a ward devoted to sleeping sickness and a laboratory. On the other hand, active screening in order to detect HAT cases. Trypanosomiasis-affected patients usually develop inflamed lymph nodes in the neck area where the parasite is hosted. Through puncturing the ganglion a little lymph is extracted so as to look for the trypanosome in the microscope. It can also be searched in the blood.