Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Codice Genetico di un Vampiro

NEW HAVEN – La tripanosomiasi umana africana (Human African Trypanosomiasis -HAT) - conosciuta anche come malattia del sonno –ha afflitto a lungo le popolazioni rurali dell’Africa sub-sahariana. Infezione parassitaria, spesso è fatale se non curata. E il suo trattamento è complesso, in quanto richiede un tipo di personale medico altamente specializzato difficile da trovare nelle zone colpite. I parassiti che portano l’infezione - Trypanosoma brucei gambiense in Africa centrale e occidentale e T. b. rhodesiense in Africa orientale - sono trasmessi attraverso la puntura di una mosca tse-tse infetta (Glossina morsitans morsitan).

All’inizio del XX secolo, le epidemie di HAT hanno decimato le popolazioni in molte parti dell’Africa. Sebbene lo screening sistematico e il trattamento di milioni di persone abbia ridotto drasticamente la trasmissione della malattia negli anni trenta, l’allentamento di tale impegno ha permesso alla HAT di riemergere negli anni cinquanta e sessanta, raggiungendo livelli epidemici all’inizio degli anni novanta. A partire dal 2008, una campagna dell’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità ha finalmente portato la malattia sotto controllo, riducendo i suoi contraenti soltanto a circa 10 mila persone ogni anno. Tuttavia milioni rimangono a rischio.

Certo, le mosche tse-tse rappresentano un grave pericolo per le aree che non possono permettersi o non possono accedere alle cure. E la minaccia non è limitata agli esseri umani. La tripanosomiasi animale africana, o nagana, è causata dai parassiti Trypanosoma congolense, T. vivax, e T. brucei - che sono tutti trasmessi dalla mosca tse-tse.

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