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Proc Biol Sci. Nov 7, 2001; 268(1482): 2235–2243.
PMCID: PMC1088871

Limitation of Trypanosoma brucei parasitaemia results from density-dependent parasite differentiation and parasite killing by the host immune response.


In the bloodstream of its mammalian host, the "slender" form of Trypanosoma brucei replicates extracellularly, producing a parasitaemia. At high density, the level of parasitaemia is limited at a sublethal level by differentiation to the non-replicative "stumpy" form and by the host immune response. Here, we derive continuous time equations to model the time-course, cell types and level of trypanosome parasitaemia, and compare the best fits with experimental data. The best fits that were obtained favour a model in which both density-dependent trypanosome differentiation and host immune response have a role in limiting the increase of parasites, much poorer fits being obtained when differentiation and immune response are considered independently of one another. Best fits also favour a model in which the slender-to-stumpy differentiation progresses in a manner that is essentially independent of the cell cycle. Finally, these models also make the prediction that the density-dependent trypanosome differentiation mechanism can give rise to oscillations in parasitaemia level. These oscillations are independent of the immune system and are not due to antigenic variation.

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Selected References

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