A clinical and epidemiological investigation of the first reported human infection with the zoonotic parasite Trypanosoma evansi in Southeast Asia.
Background. Trypanosoma is a genus of unicellular parasitic flagellate protozoa. Trypanosoma brucei species and Trypanosoma cruzi are the major agents of human trypanosomiasis; other Trypanosoma species can cause human disease, but are rare. In March 2015, a 38-year-old woman presented to a healthcare facility in southern Vietnam with fever, headache, and arthralgia. Microscopic examination of blood revealed infection with Trypanosoma. Methods. Microscopic observation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of blood samples, and serological testing were performed to identify the infecting species. The patient's blood was screened for the trypanocidal protein apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1), and a field investigation was performed to identify the zoonotic source. Results. PCR amplification and serological testing identified the infecting species as Trypanosoma evansi. Despite relapsing 6 weeks after completing amphotericin B therapy, the patient made a complete recovery after 5 weeks of suramin. The patient was found to have 2 wild-type APOL1 alleles and a normal serum APOL1 concentration. After responsive animal sampling in the presumed location of exposure, cattle and/or buffalo were determined to be the most likely source of the infection, with 14 of 30 (47%) animal blood samples testing PCR positive for T. evansi. Conclusions. We report the first laboratory-confirmed case of T. evansi in a previously healthy individual without APOL1 deficiency, potentially contracted via a wound while butchering raw beef, and successfully treated with suramin. A linked epidemiological investigation revealed widespread and previously unidentified burden of T. evansi in local cattle, highlighting the need for surveillance of this infection in animals and the possibility of further human cases.