Background: Because of its high sensitivity and its ease of use in the field, the card agglutination test for trypanosomiasis (CATT) is widely used for mass screening of sleeping sickness. However, the CATT exhibits false-positive results (i) raising the question of whether CATT-positive subjects who are negative in parasitology are truly exposed to infection and (ii) making it difficult to evaluate whether Trypanosoma brucei (T.b.) gambiense is still circulating in areas of low endemicity. The objective of this study was to assess the value of the immune trypanolysis test (TL) in characterising the HAT status of CATT-positive subjects and to monitor HAT elimination in West Africa.
Methodology/principal findings: TL was performed on plasma collected from CATT-positive persons identified within medical surveys in several West African HAT foci in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso with diverse epidemiological statuses (active, latent, or historical). All HAT cases were TL+. All subjects living in a nonendemic area were TL-. CATT prevalence was not correlated with HAT prevalence in the study areas, whereas a significant correlation was found using TL.
Conclusion and significance: TL appears to be a marker for contact with T.b. gambiense. TL can be a tool (i) at an individual level to identify nonparasitologically confirmed CATT-positive subjects as well as those who had contact with T.b. gambiense and should be followed up, (ii) at a population level to identify priority areas for intervention, and (iii) in the context of HAT elimination to identify areas free of HAT.