Pig keeping is becoming increasingly common across sub-Saharan Africa. Domestic pigs from the Arusha region of northern Tanzania were screened for trypanosomes using PCR-based methods to examine the role of pigs as a reservoir of human and animal trypanosomiasis.
A total of 168 blood samples were obtained from domestic pigs opportunistically sampled across four districts in Tanzania (Babati, Mbulu, Arumeru and Dodoma) during December 2004. A suite of PCR-based methods was used to identify the species and sub-species of trypanosomes including: Internally Transcribed Sequence to identify multiple species; species specific PCR to identify T. brucei s. l. and T. godfreyi and a multiplex PCR reaction to distinguish T. b. rhodesiense from T. brucei s. l.
Of the 168 domestic pigs screened for animal and human infective trypanosome DNA, 28 (16.7%) were infected with one or more species of trypanosome; these included: six pigs infected with Trypanosoma vivax (3.6%); three with Trypanosoma simiae (1.8%); two with Trypanosoma congolense (Forest) (1%) and four with Trypanosoma godfreyi (2.4%). Nineteen pigs were infected with Trypanosoma brucei s. l. (10.1%) of which eight were identified as carrying the human infective sub-species Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (4.8%).
These results show that in Tanzania domestic pigs may act as a significant reservoir for animal trypanosomiasis including the cattle pathogens T. vivax and T. congolense, the pig pathogen T. simiae, and provide a significant reservoir for T. b. rhodesiense, the causative agent of acute Rhodesian sleeping sickness.