Polysomnography as a diagnosis and post-treatment follow-up tool in human African trypanosomiasis: a case study in an infant

J Neurol Sci. 2011 Jun 15;305(1-2):112-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2011.03.002. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Gambian (Trypanosoma brucei gambiense) human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) evolves from the hemolymphatic stage 1, treated with pentamidine, to the meningoencephalitic stage 2, often treated with melarsoprol. This arseniate may provoke a deadly reactive encephalopathy. It is therefore crucial to diagnose precisely the stages of HAT, especially when clinical and biological examinations are doubtful. We present here the case of a 30-month old girl (E20 KOLNG) diagnosed with stage 1 HAT during a field survey in June 2007 in Congo. She was followed-up every six months for 18 months in a village dispensary facility at Mpouya. Her health status deteriorated in December 2008, although cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) white blood cell (WBC) count was normal. The child was hospitalized at Brazzaville and a daytime polysomnographic recording (electroencephalogram, electrooculogram, and electromyogram) was performed (Temec Vitaport 3® portable recorder) to avoid a new lumbar puncture. The child presented a complete polysomnographic syndrome of HAT with a major disturbance of the distribution of sleep and wake episodes and the occurrence of sleep onset REM periods (SOREMPs). The relapse at stage 2 was confirmed by a new CSF examination that showed an elevated WBC count (23cells·μL(-1)) with the presence of B lymphocytes. Melarsoprol treatment was undertaken. A post-treatment recording was immediately performed, showing the resolution of sleepwake pattern abnormalities. Another polysomnography, taken four months later, confirmed the normalization of sleep-wake patterns indicating healing. We therefore propose that polysomnography, being a non-invasive technique, should be used in children to alleviate burden caused by HAT staging procedures, especially regarding lumbar punctures in remote African villages.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / parasitology
  • Arsenic Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Child, Preschool
  • Congo
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Melarsoprol / administration & dosage
  • Melarsoprol / adverse effects
  • Polysomnography / methods*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / parasitology*
  • Trypanocidal Agents / administration & dosage
  • Trypanocidal Agents / adverse effects
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense / drug effects*
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense / growth & development
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / complications
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / drug therapy*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / parasitology


  • Trypanocidal Agents
  • Melarsoprol