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Despite the efforts to fight Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), better known as sleeping sickness, it continues to plague several parts of Africa. This disease, fatal if untreated, is caused by parasites called trypanosomes, which are transmitted to humans by the infamous tsetse fly.
In Western Africa, particularly in the mangroves of Guinea or in the Ivory Coast forests, increasingly close contacts between humans and the vector encourage the transmission and the persistence of the disease. To maximize and target more effectively the difficult and costly fight against the disease, an improved surveillance network has been set up in Africa during the past few years. An IRD( 1) team based at CIRDES( 2) in Burkina Faso – which has now been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre – has developed a state-of-the-art diagnostic method, the immune trypanolysis test3, which helps identify populations at risk and hence pinpoint priority areas for intervention.
One and a half million people per year are poisoned by snake venom in Sub-Saharan Africa. An IRD researcher recently analysed around 100 surveys and medical reports published over the past 40 years. No large-scale study of the situation had hitherto been conducted and public health authorities had underestimated the size of the problem. This means that currently only 10% of victims are treated, owing to a shortage of antivenoms * and lack of awareness among health care practitioners. Yet the clinical complications can be very serious, even fatal. A bite from a cobra or mamba can bring on death by asphyxia –due to respiratory paralysis– within 6h after the incident. Venom injected by the ocellated carpet viper, common in the African savannah, can cause haemorrhages leading to the victim’s death in a few days.
This new study provides authorities with more detailed and reliable figures which should enable them to readjust their health-care services in better tune with needs.
Over 33 million people in the world are living with HIV, the Aids virus, and 75% of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the people ill with the disease on that continent are women. In the Ivory Coast, the West African country most affected by the pandemic, two women are contaminated for every one man. Women are indeed physiologically more vulnerable to a sexually transmitted infection like HIV.
However, in spite of this gender inequality in relation to Aids, far more women than men are taking part in treatment programmes. Is it their concern to protect their children and see them grow up? Are programmes better geared to women? IRD researchers and their partners (1) recently found evidence for a “gender paradox” and are seeking to understand this by examining women’s experience with HIV care measures.
Sleeping sickness is a parasitic infection which affects humans and animals alike in Africa. True to its name, it disturbs the sleep cycle: the patient sleeps during the day and stays awake at night. Sensory disturbance, motor coordination anomalies and mental confusion develop. The whole ...
World Health Organization figures show that an estimated 75% of the 40 million people currently infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Inadequate screening remains a major obstacle to AIDS prevention in that region. The proportion of people who know their ...