Trypanosoma brucei and the nervous system

Trends Neurosci. 1994 Aug;17(8):325-9. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(94)90170-8.


African sleeping sickness, characterized by a peculiar pain syndrome and prominent neuropsychiatric symptoms, is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei (T.b.). In experimental T.b. infections, a molecule released from the trypanosomes has been isolated that binds to the CD8 molecule of T cells, whereby T cells are activated to secrete interferon gamma. This cytokine binds to the parasites and triggers them to proliferate, establishing a peculiar bidirectional activating signal system. The hypothesis is presented that the molecules involved in these bidirectional signals might also interact with neurons, thus causing brain dysfunctions. Studies on the molecular interactions between parasites and the nervous system in sleeping sickness might reveal basic mechanisms underlying other neuropsychiatric diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / parasitology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / metabolism
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / pathology*