Can we eradicate sleeping sickness by 2020?
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A new edition of Peter Kennedy’s inspiring story of a neurological career working to cure the human African trypanosomiasis disease will be published, as the goal of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) government to eradicate the disease by 2020 approaches.
Peter Kennedy’s The Fatal Sleep tells the story of the brave patients and hospital staff in Africa working to fight human African trypanosomiasis, also known as the ‘sleeping sickness’, a disease transmitted by the bite of the African tsetse fly which can cause sleep disruption, psychosis and ultimately death. The disease has killed over 1 million people in the last decade.
On 31 January 2018, the first National Day of Human African Trypanosomiasis was recognised, to celebrate the DRC’s commitment to eliminating the disease by 2020.
Later that year in November, ‘an EMA scientific committee announced its “positive opinion” for fexinidazole’ for use against the disease (Science, 2018). Previous treatments for the disease such as the arsenic-based Melarsoprol killed 1 in 20 patients.
Highlighting the long connection that Scots have with the sickness – Scottish physician David Livingstone first used a solution of arsenic as treatment while Scottish pathologist David Bruce was the first to prove the role of the trypanosome organism and the tsetse fly in transmitting the disease – The Fatal Sleep is the first popular science book of its kind to communicate the severe nature of the illness and the past, present and future implications of the disease.
Peter Kennedy is a world authority on infectious diseases of the nervous system. One of the youngest doctors ever appointed to lead a neurology department in the UK, he held the Burton Chair of Neurology at Glasgow University for 29 years, where he is currently an honorary senior research fellow.
He became enamoured with Africa as a medical student on an elective in Zambia in the 1970s and has visited Africa 28 times since. Now part of major international efforts to increase awareness of and funding for research into sleeping sickness, he is one of only a handful of medical doctors specialising in the disease and is dedicated to finding a cure.