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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Update

Air Date: Week of April 21, 2000

Diane Toomey reports on new research that offers some hope of finally being able to thwart the bug that causes the lethal African Sleeping Sickness.

Transcript

TOOMEY: When someone becomes infected with African sleeping sickness, they never recover. It may take years but the paralysis and coma resulting from the tsetse fly's bite eventually lead to death. Until recently, scientists have had no clue how to treat the disease. That's because the parasite that causes the illness coats itself with as many as 1,000 different proteins, allowing it to constantly change and evade the immune system. Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University have discovered how the parasite makes the fatty acids that bind those proteins. So they tested a chemical that would prevent the production of fatty acids, and it worked in a test tube, killing the parasite. This drug is too strong for use in humans right now, but researchers predict this new development could lead to a cure for African sleeping sickness. And that's this week's Living on Earth health update. I'm Diane Toomey.

 

 

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