Diagnosis of human sleeping sickness: sense and sensitivity

Sally L Wastling, Susan C Welburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1997 the World Health Organization (WHO) advocated increased access to diagnosis and treatment, as well as reinforcement of surveillance, for the control of sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT). This coincided with the end of decades of civil conflicts in several endemic regions and negotiation of a sustainable supply of 'free' curative drugs and, as a result, HAT is at its lowest level in 50 years. However, reported cases underestimate prevalence and downplay HAT when compared with data generated by advanced diagnostic capacity for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, and, because HAT case numbers fall between epidemics, diagnostics become less commercially appealing. Here recent trends in the development of diagnostics for sleeping sickness are considered and progress towards a much-needed sensitive, specific and affordable point-of-care diagnostic is assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-402
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Parasitology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Parasite Load
  • Serologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Trypanosomiasis, African
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Africa
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Prevalence


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