Traversal of human and animal trypanosomes across the blood-brain barrier

Dennis J. Grab, Peter G E Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neurological complications of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) in man caused by the unicellular protozoan parasites Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and T. b. rhodesiense are a consequence of the penetration of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) by trypanosomes that enter the central nervous system (CNS). Yet the mechanisms by which African trypanosomes cross the true BBB comprised of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) remain unclear. Human BBB models used to determine how African trypanosomes initially interact in vitro with the human BBB proper suggest that parasites cross the human BBB in part by generating Ca2+ activation signals in human BMECs through the activity of parasite cysteine proteases. In vivo murine models of HAT have suggested additional mechanisms of BBB traversal by trypanosomes, with recent compelling evidence for the important role of interferon-γ in facilitating this process. A clear understanding of how trypanosomes enter the CNS is critical for both understanding the neuropathogenesis of HAT and in developing more effective drug therapies for late-stage disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-351
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of NeuroVirology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Yrypanosomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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