Since first identified, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) or sleeping sickness has been described as invariably fatal. Increasing data however argue that infection by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, the causative agent of HAT, results in a wide range of outcomes in its human host and importantly that a number of subjects in endemic areas are apparently able to control infection to low levels, undetectable by the classical parasitological tests used in the field. Thus, trypanotolerance seems to occur in humans as has already been described in cattle or in the rodent experimental models of infection. This review focuses on the description of the diversity of outcomes resulting from T. b. gambiense in humans and on the host factors involved. The consequences/impacts on HAT epidemiology resulting from this diversity are also discussed with regard to implementing sustainable HAT control strategies.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.