The principal objective will be the clinical trial of a treatment which is more effective and significantly less dangerous for the patient. This means the current drug, an arsenic-based compound, which has a potential mortality rate of 10% and was developed over 50 years ago, may be discontinued in MSF projects.

August 2004 saw MSF start up a sleeping sickness project in the Eastern Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Based in Isangi, the objective is to reduce the number of sleeping sickness carriers in the local population from the current 6.8% to under 0.l% over the next two years. Additionally, the project will include a clinical trial on a new treatment, which if successful could result in dramatically improved care for sufferers worldwide.

Sleeping sickness, also known as African Human Trypanosomiasis, is a parasite transmitted by infected tse-tse flies. If left untreated, it is fatal.

"The incubation period lasts for up to 21 days, and it can take up to two years before the parasite enters into the brain," explained MSF Medical Co-ordinator Mieke Steenssens. "The classic symptom is that the patient is manic at night and sleepy through the day, hence the name of the disease. Eventually he will fall into a coma and die." CONTINUES.............www.msf

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