Medicine: On the Track of a Shifty Bug

It starts with a high fever and a severe headache, accompanied by swollen glands, vomiting and general pain. Left untreated, the malady gradually worsens. After several months, victims become irritable, then lethargic and sleepy. When they try to walk, they are likely to stumble about with a peculiar shuffling gait. Soon they can no longer stand, sit erect or even eat; often they fall into a coma and die. Their illness is African sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis —an ancient scourge that afflicts at least 10,000 people a year.

For decades doctors have been battling...

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