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Vector competence of sterile male Glossina fuscipes fuscipes for Trypanosoma brucei brucei: implications for the implementation of the sterile insect technique in a sleeping sickness focus in Chad.

Parasites & Vectors 2023 March 23
BACKGROUND: Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a neglected tropical disease caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense transmitted by tsetse flies in sub-Saharan West Africa. In southern Chad the most active and persistent focus is the Mandoul focus, with 98% of the reported human cases, and where African animal trypanosomosis (AAT) is also present. Recently, a control project to eliminate tsetse flies (Glossina fuscipes fuscipes) in this focus using the sterile insect technique (SIT) was initiated. However, the release of large numbers of sterile males of G. f. fuscipes might result in a potential temporary increase in transmission of trypanosomes since male tsetse flies are also able to transmit the parasite. The objective of this work was therefore to experimentally assess the vector competence of sterile males treated with isometamidium for Trypanosoma brucei brucei.

METHODS: An experimental infection was set up in the laboratory, mimicking field conditions: the same tsetse species that is present in Mandoul was used. A T. b. brucei strain close to T. b. gambiense was used, and the ability of the sterile male tsetse flies fed on blood with and without a trypanocide to acquire and transmit trypanosomes was measured.

RESULTS: Only 2% of the experimentally infected flies developed an immature infection (midgut) while none of the flies developed a metacyclic infection of T. b. brucei in the salivary glands. We did not observe any effect of the trypanocide used (isometamidium chloride at 100 mg/l) on the development of infection in the flies.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that sterile males of the tested strain of G. f. fuscipes were unable to cyclically transmit T. b. brucei and might even be refractory to the infection. The data of the research indicate that the risk of cyclical transmission of T. brucei by sterile male G. f. fuscipes of the strain colonized at IAEA for almost 40 years appears to be small.

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