The Fatal Sleep
Publication date early 2007- Luath Press Ltd, Edinburgh
Peter Kennedy, currently President of the International Society for Neurovirology, is a world authority on infectious diseases of the nervous system.
The Fatal Sleep focuses on the scourge of sleeping sickness in Africa. The disease, also known as Human African trypanosomiasis, is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly which holds captive a third of the entire African continent. Peter Kennedy's story aims to raise awareness of a disease that has so far been largely neglected by the industrialised Western nations, yet is a major killer in Africa.
It is a moving tale of a passion which can be traced down 30 years, evoking our empathy with the affected patients while sharing his trials and experiences. The reader is taken on an exciting medical and scientific journey that is written in a style immediately accessible to the non-scientist.
"But melarsoprol therapy has major drawbacks. The most important is a severe brain inflammation that is known as the post-treatment reactive encephalopathy (“PTRE” for short), also known as the ‘melarsoprol-related encephalopathic syndrome’. When this occurs, it is usually after the first treatment in the long course or after the eighth injection of the short course.
The patient may suddenly develop seizures and brain swelling, go into coma within hours, or have a combination of deep coma and seizures. The PTRE occurs in about 10% of patients who receive the drug and about half of those patients die from it. So that means that 5%, that is, 1 in 20, of all patients who are treated with melarsoprol actually die as a result of it. It is inconceivable that nowadays a drug that had a 5% overall mortality would ever be allowed on the market. But, and here is the essential point, untreated the mortality rate is 100%. This underpins the vital importance of correct staging of the disease."
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