Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, is a vector-borne neglected tropical disease endemic to rural sub-Saharan Africa. Current methods of early detection in the affected rural communities generally begin with general screening using the card agglutination test for trypanosomiasis (CATT), a serological test. However, the gold standard for confirmation of trypanosomiasis remains the direct observation of the causative parasite, Trypanosoma brucei
. Here, we present the use of dielectrophoresis (DEP) to enrich T. brucei
parasites in specific locations to facilitate their identification in a future diagnostic assay. DEP refers to physical movement that can be selectively induced on the parasites when exposing them to electric field gradients of specific magnitude, phase and frequency. The long-term goal of our work is to use DEP to selectively trap and enrich T. brucei
in specific locations while eluting all other cells in a sample. This would allow for a diagnostic test that enables the user to characterize the presence of parasites in specific locations determined a priori
instead of relying on scanning a sample. In the work presented here, we report the characterization of the conditions that lead to high enrichment, 780% in 50 s, of the parasite in specific locations using an array of titanium microelectrodes.
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