Hypocretin and human African trypanosomiasis

Sleep. 2008 Mar;31(3):348-54. doi: 10.1093/sleep/31.3.348.


Objectives: To detail clinical and polysomnographic characteristics in patients affected with Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (Tb.g.) human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) at different stages of evolution and to measure and compare cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of hypocretin-1 with narcoleptic patients and neurologic controls.

Methods: Twenty-five untreated patients affected with T.b.g. HAT were included. The patients were evaluated using a standardized clinical evaluation and a specific interview on sleep complaints. Diagnosis of stages I and II and intermediate stage was performed by CSF cell count and/or presence of trypanosomes: 4 patients were classified as stage II, 13 stage I, and 8 "intermediate" stage. Seventeen untreated patients completed continuous 24-hour polysomnography. We measured CSF levels of hypocretin-1 in all patients at different stages and evolutions, and we compared the results with 26 patients with narcolepsy-cataplexy and 53 neurologic controls.

Results: CSF hypocretin-1 levels were significantly higher in T.b.g. HAT (423.2 +/- 119.7 pg/mL) than in narcoleptic patients (40.16 +/- 60.18 pg/ mL) but lower than in neurologic controls (517.32 +/- 194.5 pg/mL). One stage I patient had undetectable hypocretin levels and 1 stage II patient showed intermediate levels, both patients (out of three patients) reporting excessive daytime sleepiness but without evidence for an association with narcolepsy. No differences were found in CSF hypocretin levels between patients with HAT stages; however, the presence of major sleep-wake cycle disruptions was significantly associated with lower CSF hypocretin-1 level with a same tendency for the number of sleep-onset rapid eye movement periods.

Conclusion: The present investigation is not in favor of a unique implication of the hypocretin system in T.b.g. HAT. However, we propose that dysfunction of the hypothalamic hypocretin region may participate in sleep disturbances observed in African trypanosomiasis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Angola
  • Animals
  • Cataplexy / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cataplexy / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcolepsy / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Narcolepsy / diagnosis
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropeptides / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Orexins
  • Polysomnography*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / diagnosis
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / diagnosis


  • HCRT protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins