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Dr. Juan Quintana is a postdoctoral research associate at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology, and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow. He joins the show to talk about the research he’s doing in the field of parasitology and host-parasite relationships.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How African sleeping sickness is transmitted, and how it manifests in individuals who have been infected (in both the early and late stages of disease progression)
  • How peptides play a role in quorum sensing in trypanosomes
  • Why it is difficult to treat this disease once it reaches the brain, and what sort of research is being done to find a good treatment

In the MacLeod Lab at the University of Glasgow, Dr. Quintana’s work is centered around Trypanosoma brucei, which is the parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis (commonly called African sleeping sickness). This human pathogen has plagued many people in Africa and has had a significant socioeconomic impact.

During the first stages of infection, the parasite resides in the host’s bloodstream, but eventually reaches the brain. Once it reaches the brain, circadian rhythm disturbances manifest (i.e. sleep during the day and insomnia at night). Left untreated, the disease is lethal. Dr. Quintana’s goal is to better understand the mechanisms underlying infection, host-parasite interactions in the brain, and migration of the parasite from the blood to the brain tissues.

Ultimately, the hope is that a better understanding will lead to more effective diagnostic tests, treatment, and eventually eradication of the disease. He shares his expertise in the area where medical microbiology and parasitology intersect. He explains how transmission occurs through the bite of the tsetse fly, the life cycle of Trypanosoma brucei, the human immune response to infection, the ability of the parasite to hide in certain tissues and repopulate the blood, recent findings with regard to the metabolism of the parasite, and more.

Follow Dr. Quintana on Twitter and explore his work at

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