Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Die Sequenzierung eines Vampir-Genoms

NEW HAVEN – Die Afrikanische Trypanosomiasis – auch als Schlafkrankheit bekannt – ist seit langem eine Geißel der Menschen in Afrika südlich der Sahara. Bei der Krankheit handelt es sich um eine parasitäre Infektion, die unbehandelt vielfach zum Tod führt. Und die Behandlung dieser Krankheit ist komplex und bedarf genau jener Art von hochqualifiziertem medizinischem Personal, das in betroffenen Gebieten so schwer zu finden ist. Die Parasiten, die zu den Infektionen führen - Trypanosoma brucei gambiense in Zentral- und Westafrika sowie T. b. rhodesiense in Ostafrika – werden durch den Biss einer infizierten Tsetsefliege (Glossina morsitans morsitans) übertragen.

Im frühen 20. Jahrhundert sorgten Trypanosomiasis-Epidemien für eine Dezimierung der Bevölkerung in vielen Teilen Afrikas. Obwohl systematische Früherkennungsprogramme und die Behandlung von Millionen Menschen die Übertragung der Krankheit in den 1930er Jahren drastisch reduzierten, führte die Lockerung dieser Bestrebungen in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren zu einer Wiederkehr der Krankheit, deren Ausbreitung in den frühen 1990er Jahren epidemische Ausmaße annahm. Aufgrund einer Kampagne der Weltgesundheitsorganisation brachte man die Krankheit schließlich im Jahr 2008 unter Kontrolle, wobei es mittlerweile lediglich 10.000 Neuerkrankungen pro Jahr gibt. Doch Millionen Menschen bleiben dem Risiko weiterhin ausgesetzt.

Offenkundig stellt die Tsetsefliege eine ernsthafte Gefahr in jenen Gebieten dar, wo der Zugang zur Behandlung am schlechtesten ist und wo man sie sich auch am wenigsten leisten kann. Bedroht sind überdies nicht nur Menschen. Die afrikanische Trypanosomiasis bei Tieren, auch als Nagana-Krankheit bezeichnet, wird von den Parasiten Trypanosoma congolense, T. vivax, und T. brucei verursacht – die ebenfalls alle von der Tsetsefliege übertragen werden.

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