Resistance to normal human serum reveals Trypanosoma lewisi as an underestimated human pathogen

Mol Biochem Parasitol. Jan-Feb 2015;199(1-2):58-61. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2015.03.007. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


Human-infectious trypanosomes such as Trypanosoma cruzi, T. brucei rhodesiense, and T. b. gambiense can be discriminated from those only infecting animals by their resistance to normal human serum (NHS). These parasites are naturally resistant to trypanolysis induced by the human-specific pore-forming serum protein apolipoprotein L1 (ApoL-1). T. lewisi, a worldwide distributed parasite, has been considered as rat-specific and non-pathogenic to the natural hosts. Here we provide evidence that 19 tested T. lewisi isolates from Thailand and China share resistance to NHS. Further investigation on one selected isolate CPO02 showed that it could resist at least 90% NHS or 30 μg/ml recombinant human ApoL-1 (rhApoL-1) in vitro, in contrast to T. b. brucei which could not survive in 0.0001% NHS and 0.1 μg/ml rhApoL-1. In vivo tests in rats also demonstrated that this parasite is fully resistant to lysis by NHS. Together with recent reports of atypical human infection by T. lewisi, these data allow the conclusion that T. lewisi is potentially an underestimated and thus a neglected human pathogen.

Keywords: Apolipoprotein L-1; Normal human serum; Trypanolysis; Trypanosoma lewisi.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein L1
  • Apolipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • China
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Serum / immunology*
  • Serum / parasitology*
  • Thailand
  • Trypanosoma lewisi / drug effects
  • Trypanosoma lewisi / immunology*
  • Trypanosoma lewisi / isolation & purification
  • Trypanosoma lewisi / physiology*


  • APOL1 protein, human
  • Apolipoprotein L1
  • Apolipoproteins
  • Lipoproteins, HDL