Research Article

Antioxidants promote establishment of trypanosome infections in tsetse

E. T. MacLEODa1, I. MAUDLINa1, A. C. DARBYa1 and S. C. WELBURNa1 c1

a1 Centre for Infectious Diseases, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK


Efficient, cyclical transmission of trypanosomes through tsetse flies is central to maintenance of human sleeping sickness and nagana across sub-Saharan Africa. Infection rates in tsetse are normally very low as most parasites ingested with the fly bloodmeal die in the fly gut, displaying the characteristics of apoptotic cells. Here we show that a range of antioxidants (glutathione, cysteine, N-acetyl-cysteine, ascorbic acid and uric acid), when added to the insect bloodmeal, can dramatically inhibit cell death of Trypanosoma brucei brucei in tsetse. Both L- and D-cysteine invoked similar effects suggesting that inhibition of trypanosome death is not dependent on protein synthesis. The present work suggests that antioxidants reduce the midgut environment protecting trypanosomes from cell death induced by reactive oxygen species.

(Received September 13 2006)

(Revised October 23 2006)

(Accepted November 22 2006)

(Online publication February 19 2007)


c1 *Corresponding author. Tel: +44 131 650 6228. Fax: +44 131 650 7348. E-mail: