What is human African trypanosomiasis

Human African trypanosomiasis (also known as sleeping sickness) is caused by an infection, with parasites transmitted to humans through the bites of infected tsetse flies. The disease manifests in two forms: chronic infection with Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (g-HAT) and acute infection with Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (r-HAT). In the first stage, the parasites multiply in the body causing fever, headaches, joint pain and itching. In the second stage, the parasites invade the central nervous system and brain, leading to behavioural changes, confusion, poor coordination, and sensory as well as sleep disturbances (giving the name ‘sleeping sickness’). Without diagnosis and treatment, human African trypanosomiasis is nearly universally fatal in humans.

People affected by human African trypanosomiasis

78% of HAT cases were from Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2017 98% of reported cases are from T. brucei gambiense

WHO NTD roadmap targets for human African trypanosomiasis

The World Health Organization’s roadmap on NTDs set out a comprehensive plan for the control, elimination and eradication of various neglected tropical diseases by 2020, including human African trypanosomiasis.

Human African trypanosomiasis target: Global elimination as a public health problem by 2020

Number of new human African trypanosomiasis cases reported by country

Number of human African trypanosomiasis cases reported by year


  • Data is provided by the World Health Organization
  • Photo: DNDi / Benoît Marquet