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Trypanosomiasis and the brain


Neurological involvement following trypanosome infection has been recognised for over a century. However, there are still many unanswered questions concerning the mechanisms used by the parasite to gain entry to the CNS and the pathogenesis of the resulting neuroinflammatory reaction. There is a paucity of material from human cases of the disease therefore the majority of current research relies on the use of animal models of trypanosome infection. This review reports contemporary knowledge, from both animal models and human samples, regarding parasite invasion of the CNS and the neuropathological changes that accompany trypanosome infection and disease progression. The effects of trypanosomes on the blood-brain barrier are discussed and possible key molecules in parasite penetration of the barrier highlighted. Changes in the balance of CNS cytokines and chemokines are also described. The article closes by summarising the effects of trypanosome infection on the circadian sleep-wake cycle, and sleep structure, in relation to neuroinflammation and parasite location within the CNS. Although a great deal of progress has been made in recent years, the advent and application of sophisticated analysis techniques, to decipher the complexities of HAT pathogenesis, herald an exciting and rewarding period for advances in trypanosome research.

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