Fighting African Sleeping Sickness

Partnership Objective

Support WHO eliminate Human African Sleeping Sickness by 2020 as outlined in the London Declaration on NTDs.

Mushie resident on her way to the public water pipe to wash dishes, a potentially dangerous walk though the habitat of the tsetse fly, which transmits the pathogen of sleeping sickness Mushie resident on her way to the public water pipe to wash dishes, a potentially dangerous walk though the habitat of the tsetse fly, which transmits the pathogen of sleeping sickness Copyright Bayer

What are the health needs and challenges? 

Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a parasitic disease in humans and animals transmitted by the tsetse fly. The disease is endemic in countries of sub-Saharan Africa covering about 37 countries and 60 million people. In the Congo this infection now kills as many people as AIDS.

In 98% of cases HAT is caused by protozoa of trypanosoma brucei gambiense (t.b.g), found in 24 countries of West and Central Africa and in 2% of cases by trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (t.b.r.), found in 13 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa. While patients infected with t.b.g. usually emerge with symptoms after months and years in advanced stages of the disease, patients with t.b.r. present acute symptoms after only weeks or few months. Different types of treatment schemes are used for both patient groups.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

In 1997, the 50th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to raise awareness of HAT and subsequently enhanced its efforts to fight HAT together with strong partners. In 2002, Bayer was among the first companies committing support to the World Health Organization (WHO) in fighting HAT. Over an inititial period of 10 years Bayer annually donated 10.000 vials of Germanin® (suramin) for the treatment of t.b.r. infected HAT patients. This agreement was renewed in 2008 for another five-year period and thereafter extended until 2017. WHO determines the requirements of Germanin® needed to meet the treatment needs.

The challenge remained to provide more effective and tolerable treatment for the majority of HAT patients infected with t.b.g. (98%). In 2003 began an extensive clinical study, first in the Republic of Congo and later in DRC, to explore a new treatment regimen, the Nifurtimox/Eflornithin Combination Therapy (NECT) involving Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Epicentre, the Special Program for Research & Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). Nifurtimox - the active ingredient of Lampit® - was originally used to treat Chagas disease only. The study ended in 2008 and results indicated that NECT shall become the new first-line treatment option for the majority of patients infected with t.b.g. in advanced stages of the disease. NECT is also a far more practical and shorter treatment than the previously available treatment options.

In the last 10 years, more than 80% of reported cases occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is the only country that currently reports more than 1000 new cases annually and thus carries the highest global disease burden of HAT. In 2013 Bayer decided to accelerate access to diagnosis and treatment of HAT by supporting the work of mobile intervention teams in the remote rural focal disease areas in DRC. Their work is critical for screening people at risk in focal disease areas, establish the correct diagnosis and refer patients to treatment. Furthermore they also create awareness for the disease and educate the villagers in rural areas on the symptoms.

In 2016 Bayer agreed with WHO to double the support of the mobile intervention teams in DRC until 2020 and further support training of healthcare providers as well as general education and awareness. Furthermore Bayer agreed to support surveillance and monitoring of HAT which is of particular importance when aiming for disease elimination.

Since 2016 these integrated activities are also complemented by the support of vector control in epidemic disease areas in DRC.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

Currently some 83% of all reported cases of HAT worldwide occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2013 Bayer increased its commitment to the fight against African Sleeping Sickness, setting up a project for an initial period of three years during which Bayer will provide financial support for the work of mobile intervention teams deployed by the WHO in DR Congo to tackle local disease outbreaks. With the help of these teams, people in remote areas are gaining better access to diagnosis and treatment. 


A documentary on the fight against African Sleeping Sickness

Partnership information

Company(ies) Bayer

Partner(s) World Health Organization (WHO)

Type of Partner(s) IGOs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Human African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Product Donations, Health System Infrastructure - Outreach & Medical Services, Prevention Programs - Vector Control

Targeted Population(s) Elderly, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Men, Patients in needs of treatment, People with low income, Women

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 17

Country(ies) Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Start Date 2002

More information Bayer

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« I'm proud to be able to think clearly again, thanks to the treatment. »

Moses Ayiri, African Sleeping Sickness Patient, Uganda