Increased trypanolytic activity in sera of sleeping sickness patients after chemotherapy
We tested sera from patients previously treated for human African trypanosomiasis, from patients infected with trypanosomes, and from individuals never diagnosed with African trypanosomiasis living in the Trypanosoma brucei gambiense sleeping sickness focus of Mbini in Equatorial Guinea for their trypanolytic activity against bloodstream forms of T. b. rhodesiense expressing a metacyclic and bloodstream variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). Nearly 80% of the sera from treated patients showed high trypanolytic activity against trypanosomes expressing a metacyclic VSG. The trypanolytic activity of part of these sera was mediated by IgM while that of the other part was antibody-independent. On the other hand, only 40% of the sera exhibited high trypanolytic activity against trypanosomes expressing a bloodstream VSG which also was almost completely abolished by heat-inactivation. In contrast, most sera from infected and negative individuals displayed only low to moderate trypanolytic activity against either trypanosomes expressing a metacyclic or a bloodstream VSG. These results suggest that trypanolytic activity of sera increases after African sleeping sickness and is directed against trypanosomes expressing metacyclic VSG.