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Adipose and skin distribution of African trypanosomes in natural animal infections.

BACKGROUND: Animal African trypanosomiasis, which is caused by different species of African trypanosomes, is a deadly disease in livestock. Although African trypanosomes are often described as blood-borne parasites, there have been recent reappraisals of the ability of these parasites to reside in a wide range of tissues. However, the majority of those studies were conducted on non-natural hosts infected with only one species of trypanosome, and it is unclear whether a similar phenomenon occurs during natural animal infections, where multiple species of these parasites may be present.

METHODS: The infective trypanosome species in the blood and other tissues (adipose and skin) of a natural host (cows, goats and sheep) were determined using a polymerase chain reaction-based diagnostic.

RESULTS: The animals were found to harbour multiple species of trypanosomes. Different patterns of distribution were observed within the host tissues; for instance, in some animals, the blood was positive for the DNA of one species of trypanosome and the skin and adipose were positive for the DNA of another species. Moreover, the rate of detection of trypanosome DNA was highest for skin adipose and lowest for the blood.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings reported here emphasise the complexity of trypanosome infections in a natural setting, and may indicate different tissue tropisms between the different parasite species. The results also highlight the need to include adipose and skin tissues in future diagnostic and treatment strategies.

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