Treatment of Sleeping Sickness

African Trypanosomiasis, commonly called Sleeping Sickness, may be transmitted to humans, or between humans, in a variety of ways:

    • Blood and Organ Donations: If infected people donate blood or organs, and proper blood scanning isnt conducted, then the recipients of the blood and organs can become infected.

    • Fetal Transmission: Mothers can pass the infection onto their unborn children because the parasite can cross the placenta, causing prenatal death.

    • Insect Bite: specifically the bite of the Tsetse Fly – this is the most common method of transmission.


A range of medications are available to treat African Trypanosomiasis, commonly called Sleeping Sickness.
The current recommended treatments for the first stage of the disease include one or more of the following:

    • Intravenous pentamidine (for T.b. gambiense)
    • Intravenous suramin (for T.b. rhodesiense)
    • Intravenous melarsoprol combined with oral nifurtimox
    • Intravenous eflornithine
    The current recommended treatments for the second stage (Neurological Phase) of the disease are:
    • Intravenous melarsoprol

The key to successfully treating this disease is to begin treatment as early as possible. Damage caused during the later phase of the disease, the Neurological Phase, can be irreversible.

Prevention and Control

The following techniques are used to attempt to prevent and control African Trypanosomiasis, commonly called Sleeping Sickness:

    • Insect Control: The eradication of the parasitic host, the Tsetse Fly. For example, instances of sleeping sickness are being reduced by the use of the Sterile Insect Technique. Surveillance, monitoring, prophylaxis, and treatment aim to reduce the number of organisms which carry the disease.
    • Blood and Tissue Monitoring: Better monitoring and testing or blood and organs donated to reduce the chance of transmission between humans.
    • Personal Protection: includes a range of measures, including covering exposed skin, using mosquito nets and screens on doors and windows, and avoiding areas where the Tsetse Fly are common.

Further research is constantly being conducted into other prevention and control measures for this disease.