Metabolic Profiling of Central Nervous System Disease in Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense infection

Sabrina D. Lamour, Vincent P. Alibu, Elaine Holmes, Jeremy M Sternberg* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The progression of Human African Trypanosomiasis from the early hemolymphatic stage to the late meningoencephalitic stage is of critical diagnostic importance as it determines the choice of potentially toxic drug regimens. Current diagnostic criteria involving analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for parasites and/or pleiocytosis are sensitive, but recent evidence suggests that specificity may be poor.

Methods: We used an untargeted global metabolic profiling approach for the discovery of novel candidate stage diagnostic markers in CSF from Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense patients using 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Results: Metabolic markers did not resolve early and late stage cases but were associated with neuro-inflammatory responses and the presentation of neurological disturbances. In particular increased 3-hydroxybutyrate and alanine and reduced concentrations of mannose and urea were discriminatory for the presentation of daytime somnolence and gait ataxia.

Conclusions: CSF metabolite concentrations provide markers for neuroinflammatory responses during CNS invasion by trypanosomes and are associated with the presentation of neurological disturbances independently of disease stage determined by current criteria. This suggests that applying a dichotomous stage diagnosis on the basis of CSF pleiocytosis does not accurately reflect the biological changes occurring as parasites invade the CNS and has implications for biomarker discovery strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1273-1280
Number of pages8
JournalThe journal of infectious diseases
Issue number10
Early online date12 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments. We thank Isabel Garcia-Perez and Maria Lopez-Gonzales, for performing additional mass spectrometry analyses at Imperial College London.

Financial support. This work was supported by the Medical Research Council MRC; (to S. D. L.), and Imperial College (MRC doctoral training award G1000390 to S. D. L.), and the Wellcome Trust (grant 082786 to J. M. S. and V. P. A.).


  • human African trypanosomiasis
  • CNS
  • neurological symptoms
  • metabolic profiling
  • nuclear magnetic resonance


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