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Immunology and Infection

Bioluminescence Imaging to Detect Late Stage Infection of African Trypanosomiasis

Published: May 18th, 2016



1Department of Infection and Immunity, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Diseases

This manuscript describes the use of a bioluminescent strain of African trypanosomes to enable the tracking of late stage infection and demonstrates how in vivo live imaging can be used to visualize infections within the central nervous system in real-time.

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a multi-stage disease that manifests in two stages; an early blood stage and a late stage when the parasite invades the central nervous system (CNS). In vivo study of the late stage has been limited as traditional methodologies require the removal of the brain to determine the presence of the parasites.

Bioluminescence imaging is a non-invasive, highly sensitive form of optical imaging that enables the visualization of a luciferase-transfected pathogen in real-time. By using a transfected trypanosome strain that has the ability to produce late stage disease in mice we are able to study the kinetics of a CNS infection in a single animal throughout the course of infection, as well as observe the movement and dissemination of a systemic infection.

Here we describe a robust protocol to study CNS infections using a bioluminescence model of African trypanosomiasis, providing real time non-invasive observations which can be further analyzed with optional downstream approaches.

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), or sleeping sickness, is caused by the vector-borne protozoan parasites of the Trypanosoma brucei spp1. Estimated numbers of current cases is fewer than 7 thousand every year with almost 70 million people exposed to the risk of the parasite infection within the African continent. The disease, which is most often lethal if left untreated, comprises an early hemolymphatic stage where parasites are present in the blood, progressing to the late stage when parasites invade the central nervous system (CNS) and are no longer susceptible to treatment by early stage trypanosomal drugs2. The current drug therap....

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All work was carried out under the approval of the UK Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Board. ARRIVE guideline are followed in this report.

1. In Vivo Passage of Bioluminescent Trypanosoma brucei brucei

  1. Remove a cryopreserved stock (termed stabilate) of T. b. brucei strain GVR35-VSL-2 (available from Professor John Kelly at.......

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This protocol demonstrates how to follow disease progression following infection of mice with T. b. brucei, a model for human African trypanosomiasis. Figure 1 shows the timeline of the experimental protocol, demonstrating the timetable for treatment and imaging steps. Figure 2 demonstrates a typical field of view in a fixed Giemsa-stained blood smear used to quantitate peripheral parasitemia, with trypanosomes and red blood cells present. Develo.......

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The development of a bioluminescent T. b. brucei GVR35 strain allows the visualization of a trypanosome infection from the early to the late stage. Previous infection models were unable to detect the late stage, when parasites are in the brain, in real time from blood film microscopy, and required the culling and removal of brains from the infected mice to determine parasite burden12. The bioluminescence reduces inter-mouse variability as a single mouse can be tracked throughout the entirety of the in.......

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We thank John Kelly and Martin Taylor (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) for providing T. b. brucei GVR35-VSL-2 and Dr. Andrea Zelmer (LSHTM) for advice on in vivo imaging. This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program (grant number OPPGH5337).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
PBS Sigma, UK P4417 tablets pH 7.4
Glucose Sigma, UK G8270 99.5% (molecular) grade
Ammonium chloride Sigma, UK A9434 99.5% (molecular) grade
Heparin (lithium salt) Sigma, UK H0878
Hi-FCS Gibco, Life Technologies, UK 10500-064 500 ml
DPBS Sigma, UK D4031 Sterile filtered
Mr. Frosty Nalgene, UK
Giemsa Sigma, UK G5637
D-Luciferin Perkin Elmer, UK
Sigma, UK 115144-35-9
Diminazene aceturate Sigma, UK D7770 Analytical grade
IVIS Lumina II Perkin Elmer, UK other bioimagers available e.g. from Bruker, Kodak
Living Image v. 4.2 Perkin Elmer, UK proprietary software for Perkin Elmer IVIS instruments; other instruments may have their own
1 ml syringe Fisher Scientific, UK 10142104
20 ml syringe Fisher Scientific, UK 10743785
25G Needles Greiner Bio-one N2516
21G Needles Greiner Bio-one N2138
Twin-frosted microscope slide VWR, UK 631-0117
1.5 ml microcentrifuge tube StarLab, UK I1415-1000
7 ml Bijou tube StarLab, UK E1412-0710
Mouse restrainer Sigma, UK Z756903 our restrainer was made in-house, this is a similar model

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