Prof Sue Welburn and her team have spent 20 years in Uganda studying how sleeping sickness is spread by the tsetse fly.
Sue Welburn is Professor of Medical and Veterinary Molecular Epidemiology in the School of Biomedical Sciences’ Centre for Infectious Diseases.
She is studying the relationship between the spread of the illness by flies and the role livestock plays in providing a ‘reservoir’ for the sickness. When she began studying the subject, no tools were available for testing whether humans were being infected in ‘spill over’ infections from animals.
Prof Welburn explains that over the past 20 years they have been developing molecular tools that would indicate whether these parasites were infective to humans or not.
Now we’re actually able to take a sample of blood from an animal, pop it on a card and tell you whether it can infect a human or not.
Prof Sue Welburn
Prof Welburn’s team has been working with the Ugandan Government and Makerere University in Kampala, to treat all of the cattle in the zone in which the chronic and acute forms of sleeping sickness need to be eliminated.
They have a programme to treat up to 500,000 animals, generating data and providing evidence for the effectiveness of the treatment.
Already we have reduced the reservoir of infection in animals by 75 per cent, effectively preventing transmission in an entire district, and now the Ugandan Government has invited us to continue this programme. This is probably the first time that a disease has been controlled by a third party intervening in cattle.
Prof Sue Welburn
This article was published on Jun 14, 2010