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Keywords:

  • T. b. gambiense;
  • sleeping sickness;
  • melarsoprol;
  • relapse;
  • Uganda

Culture adapted T. b. gambiense isolated from Northwest Uganda were exposed to 0.001–0.14 μg/ml melarsoprol or 1.56–100 μg/ml DL-α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO). Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of each drug were scored for each isolate after a period of 10 days drug exposure. The results indicate that T. b. gambiense isolates from Northwest Uganda had elevated MIC values for melarsoprol ranging from 0.009 to 0.072 μg/ml as compared with T. b. gambiense isolates from Cote d‘Ivoire with MIC values ranging from 0.001 to 0.018 μg/ml or with T. b. rhodesiense from Southeast Uganda with MIC values from 0.001 to 0.009 μg/ml. All MIC values obtained fell below expected peak melarsoprol concentrations in serum of treated patients. However, it may not be possible to maintain constant drug concentrations in serum of patients as was the case in our in vitro experiments. Importantly, the MIC of 0.072 μg/ml exhibited by one of the isolates from Northwest Uganda was above levels attainable in CSF indicating that this isolate would probably not be eliminated from CSF of treated patients. PCR amplification of the gene encoding the P2-like adenosine transporter followed by restriction digestion with Sfa NI enzyme revealed presence of fragments previously observed in a trypanosome clone with laboratory-induced arsenic resistance. From our findings it appears that reduced drug susceptibility may be one factor for the frequent relapses of sleeping sickness after melarsoprol treatment occuring in Northwest Uganda.