Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Deadly Swims
21 January 2015

Deadly Swims

Trypanosoma brucei is a lethal parasite with an elegant way of spreading its disease. A determined swimmer, T. brucei changes its swimming ‘stroke’ in different environments, from the gut of the tsetse fly to the turbulent flows of the mammalian bloodstream, where it is transmitted via the fly’s bite. Pictured here on the bottom row, a high-powered microscope captures T. brucei swimming, also shown in similar T. bruceilabelled with a blue dye (middle row). On the top row, computer simulations use knowledge of the parasite’s elastic body to mimic the flagellum – a ‘tail’ that beats and flaps to generate different swimming styles. Movement is crucial for T. brucei to spread sleeping sickness, a deadly disease that kills thousands of people each year. Using computer models to predict how T. brucei thrive in different environments may influence future clinical strategies to sink these single-celled swimmers for good.

Written by John Ankers

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