Technology plays a role is so many aspects of our lives and now researchers are using imaging technology to examine the pathogen that causes “African sleeping sickness” also known as trypanoosmiasis. This epidemic takes the lives of more than 30,000 annually and can also infect and kill entire herds of cattle and buffalo. The medications used to treat the disease are out of date and researchers understand that the medications kill not only the pathogen, but in one of ten cases, the patient as well.pathogens

Biologists from the University of Wurzburg have been researching the pathogens by using a high-sensitivity camera to pinpoint the trypanosomes, the pathogen responsible for the disease. The pathogens live in the blood, which should be a hostile environment, but they adapt and move throughout the red blood corpuscles, are in constant movement, and are resistant to the host’s natural antibodies that have them under constant attach. Researchers also knew they needed to understand why the pathogens were in constant motion and why they always moved in the same direction, but with no apparent destination.

Researchers stumbled upon a startling find, “the pathogens consume the antibodies.” This theory was predicated on the fact that the constant movement of the pathogen fulfils the “purpose of pushing the antibodies toward the end of a cell” and by doing this it creates a “current that spreads over the protozoans’ very smooth surface.” Researchers concluded that if the antibodies were to adhere to the surface they could offer a resistance and therefore lose contact with the hosts’ immune system.

A scientific CMOS camera was utilized to analyze the “swimming” behavior of the pathogens. The CMOS camera technology would also help biologists uncover new ways to treat the pathogens and create treatment plans for those afflicted.

Fluorescent dyes were injected to make it easier to observe the trypanosomes under an inverse digital microscope. The camera’s imaging technology allowed for a capture of 400 frames per second which made it possible to create, for the first time, high resolution image sequences of the trypanosomes. The images captured supported the research that the pathogens are literally swimming for their lives when they are inside the hosts’ body.

The information gathered offers biologists enough information to allow them to create suitable therapies to either reverse the movement of the pathogens or to slow them down.
Currently the CMOS cameras are being utilized to examine infected animals to gather more information on the pathogens with the main impetus to be finding a treatment plan for those infected with trypanosomiasis.

UKA optics is a manufacturer of standard and custom CCD & CMOS lens assemblies for board and miniature camera applications including digital photography, video conferencing, surveillance, barcode scanning, machine vision and medical systems