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Observations placeholder

Hallucinations from sleeping sickness



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 3



Chancres, as well as being painless ulcerations formed during the primary stage of syphilis, are associated with the African trypanosomiasis sleeping sickness, surrounding the area of the tsetse fly bite.

A description of the experience


PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2011 Nov;5(11):e1358. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001358. Epub 2011 Nov 1.  Sleeping sickness in travelers - do they really sleep? Urech K, Neumayr A, Blum J. Swiss Tropical and Public Heath Institute, Basel, Switzerland. karin.urech@stud.unibas.ch

The number of imported Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) cases in non-endemic countries has increased over the last years.

The objective of this analysis is to describe the clinical presentation of HAT in Caucasian travelers.

Literature was screened (MEDLINE, Pubmed) using the terms "Human African Trypanosomiasis", "travelers" and "expatriates"; all European languages except Slavic ones were included. Publications without clinical description of patients were only included in the epidemiological analysis. Forty-five reports on Caucasians with T.b. rhodesiense and 15 with T.b. gambiense infections were included in the analysis of the clinical parameters. Both species have presented with

  • fever (T.b. rhodesiense 97.8% and T.b. gambiense 93.3%),
  • headache (50% each) and a
  • trypanosomal chancre (T.b. rhodesiense 84.4%, T.b. gambiense 46.7%).

While sleeping disorders dominate the clinical presentation of HAT in endemic regions, there have been only rare reports in travelers:

  • insomnia (T.b. rhodesiense 7.1%, T.b. gambiense 21.4%),
  • diurnal somnolence (T.b. rhodesiense 4.8%, T.b. gambiense none).
  • Surprisingly, jaundice has been seen in 24.2% of the Caucasian T.b. rhodesiense patients, but has never been described in HAT patients in endemic regions.

These results contrast to the clinical presentation of T.b. gambiense and T.b. rhodesiense HAT in Africans in endemic regions, where the presentation of chronic T.b. gambiense and acute T.b. rhodesiense HAT is different. The analysis of 14 reports on T.b. gambiense HAT in Africans living in a non-endemic country shows that neurological symptoms such as

  • somnolence (46.2%),
  • motor deficit (64.3%) and
  • reflex anomalies (14.3%) as well as
  • psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations (21.4%) or
  • depression (21.4%)

may dominate the clinical picture. Often, the diagnosis has been missed initially: some patients have even been hospitalized in psychiatric clinics. In travelers T.b. rhodesiense and gambiense present as acute illnesses and chancres are frequently seen.

The diagnosis of HAT in Africans living outside the endemic region is often missed or delayed, leading to presentation with advanced stages of the disease.

PMID: 22069503

The source of the experience

Other ill or disabled person

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Activities and commonsteps