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When did we relate tsetse to trypanosomiasis?
African cattle owners learned long ago from experience, that there was a link between biting flies and the spread of trypanosomiasis or nagana in their stock. The link between the tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis was first formally established by David Bruce working in what is now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
David Bruce gave a vivid description of nagana:
Bruce undertook bacteriological and microscopic examinations of affected oxen and noticed motile, vibrating organisms in their blood. He demonstrated formally that these organisms caused nagana by inoculating blood from infected cattle into healthy horses and dogs. The test animals developed the symptoms of nagana and large numbers of trypanosomes could be seen in their blood.
Bruce went on to show that healthy cattle and dogs sent into tsetse-infested areas acquired this same blood parasite in their blood and became ill, suggesting that nagana was identical to the ‘tsetse fly disease’. A survey of the wild animals in the tsetse-infested area showed that the trypanosomes were in these animals too, leading Bruce to suggest that the disease could be controlled by destroying the wild hosts (Bruce, 1896).
While the link between tsetse and trypanosomiasis was elucidated rapidly, Bruce thought initially that the parasite was transmitted mechanically by tsetse. The existence of a developmental cycle within the fly followed after a further 15 years of research (Bruce et al., 1909).
Trout and trypanosomes
Bruce, D., Hamerton, A.E., Bateman, H.R. & Mackie, F.P. (1909). The development of Trypanosoma gambiense in Glossina palpalis. Proceedings of the Royal Society (series B) 81, 405-414.
Castellani, A. (1903). On the discovery of a species of Trypanosoma in
the cerebrospinal fluid of cases of sleeping sickness. Proceedings
of the Royal Society 71, 501-508.
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