Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, is a parasitic tropical disease. It progresses from the first, haemolymphatic stage to a neurological second stage due to invasion of parasites into the central nervous system (CNS). As treatment depends on the stage of disease, there is a critical need for tools that efficiently discriminate the two stages of HAT. We hypothesized that markers of brain damage discovered by proteomic strategies and inflammation-related proteins could individually or in combination indicate the CNS invasion by the parasite.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) originated from parasitologically confirmed Trypanosoma brucei gambiense patients. Patients were staged on the basis of CSF white blood cell (WBC) count and presence of parasites in CSF. One hundred samples were analysed: 21 from stage 1 (no trypanosomes in CSF and ≤5 WBC/µL) and 79 from stage 2 (trypanosomes in CSF and/or >5 WBC/µL) patients. The concentration of H-FABP, GSTP-1 and S100β in CSF was measured by ELISA. The levels of thirteen inflammation-related proteins (IL-1ra, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-9, IL-10, G-CSF, VEGF, IFN-γ, TNF-α, CCL2, CCL4, CXCL8 and CXCL10) were determined by bead suspension arrays.
CXCL10 most accurately distinguished stage 1 and stage 2 patients, with a sensitivity of 84% and specificity of 100%. Rule Induction Like (RIL) analysis defined a panel characterized by CXCL10, CXCL8 and H-FABP that improved the detection of stage 2 patients to 97% sensitivity and 100% specificity.
This study highlights the value of CXCL10 as a single biomarker for staging T. b. gambiense-infected HAT patients. Further combination of CXCL10 with H-FABP and CXCL8 results in a panel that efficiently rules in stage 2 HAT patients. As these molecules could potentially be markers of other CNS infections and disorders, these results should be validated in a larger multi-centric cohort including other inflammatory diseases such as cerebral malaria and active tuberculosis.
The actual serological and parasitological tests used for the diagnosis of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, are not sensitive and specific enough. The card agglutination test for trypanosomiasis (CATT) assay, widely used for the diagnosis, is restricted to the gambiense form of the disease, and parasitological detection in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is often very difficult. Another very important problem is the difficulty of staging the disease, a crucial step in the decision of the treatment to be given. While eflornithine is difficult to administer, melarsoprol is highly toxic with incidences of reactive encephalopathy as high as 20%. Staging, which could be diagnosed as early (stage 1) or late (stage 2), relies on the examination of CSF for the presence of parasite and/or white blood cell (WBC) counting. However, the parasite is rarely found in CSF and WBC count is not standardised (cutoff set between 5 and 20 WBC per µL). In the present study, we hypothesized that an early detection of stage 2 patients with one or several proteins in association with clinical evaluation and WBC count would improve staging accuracy and allow more appropriate therapeutic interventions.