Occurrence, clinical manifestation and the epidemiological implications of naturally occurring canine trypanosomosis in western Kenya.
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Domestic dogs were screened for Trypanosoma brucei infection using the haematocrit centrifugation technique as part of routine active surveillance exercises in the Busia and Teso districts of Kenya. The purpose was to assess the role of dogs as sentinels for the occurrence of human sleeping sickness. Out of 200 dogs screened, five were found to be infected at the various test sites. These five succumbed to the disease within four weeks, and exhibited a distinct and pronounced corneal opacity before death. Blood from two naturally infected dogs were tested for the presence of the serum resistance associated (SRA) gene and one tested positive, confirming it as human infective (T. brucei rhodesiense) prevalence (0.5%). It is considered that the occurrence of this clinical sign could be used as an early warning prediction of future outbreaks. This type of prediction could form an integral part of an indigenous technical knowledge set in areas lying at the edges of the tsetse (Glossina) belts where T. brucei is the main trypanosome species that affects dogs. The occurrence of corneal opacity in dogs could indicate a rise in the levels of T. brucei a proportion of which could be human infective T. b. rhodesiense circulating in the population early enough before disease outbreak occurs. It is thought that during sleeping sickness epidemics the domestic dog will be the first casualty rapidly succumbing to disease long before it is noticed in man. Prompt prediction of disease outbreaks would thus enable early interventions that would reduce the morbidity, mortality and the general economic losses associated with sleeping sickness to be instituted.