Myths and truths about the Tsetse fly and sleeping sickness

The tsetse fly, despite being known as the “sleep fly,” does not promote restful dreams (unless you consider death Eternal Sleep).

Its bite transmits a deadly parasite, the trypanosome, which attacks the nervous system of its victims. The disease it transmits is known as “sleeping sickness”, but in reality trypanosomiasis (which is what it is really called) not only disturbs sleep cycles, but also causes sensory, motor, psychological and finally neurological disorders that lead to death.

Human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, is a vector-dependent parasitic disease for its transmission. The parasites involved are protozoa belonging to the Trypanosoma genus, transmitted to humans by bites of the tsetse fly (Glossina genus) infected by feeding on humans or animals that hosted the parasite.

This fly spends no less than 250 genes ensuring that its saliva facilitates unhindered ingestion of human blood; but the trypanosome inside it has evolved to reduce the sucking efficiency of that saliva.

It is the Machiavellian strategy of the parasite to force its host fly to bite more and more people to obtain its food, and guarantee itself a more efficient propagation.

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