Visualizing trypanosomes in a vertebrate host reveals novel swimming behaviours, adaptations and attachment mechanisms

Éva Dóró, Sem H. Jacobs, Ffion R. Hammond, Henk Schipper, Remco P.M. Pieters, Mark Carrington, Geert F. Wiegertjes, Maria Forlenza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Trypanosomes are important disease agents of humans, livestock and cold-blooded species, including fish. The cellular morphology of trypanosomes is central to their motility, adaptation to the host's environments and pathogenesis. However, visualizing the behaviour of trypanosomes resident in a live vertebrate host has remained unexplored. In this study, we describe an infection model of zebrafish (Danio rerio) with Trypanosoma carassii. By combining high spatio-temporal resolution microscopy with the transparency of live zebrafish, we describe in detail the swimming behaviour of trypanosomes in blood and tissues of a vertebrate host. Besides the conventional tumbling and directional swimming, T. carassii can change direction through a 'whip-like' motion or by swimming backward. Further, the posterior end can act as an anchoring site in vivo. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a vertebrate infection model that allows detailed imaging of trypanosome swimming behaviour in vivo in a natural host environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48388
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2019


  • host-pathogen interaction
  • infectious disease
  • microbiology
  • swimming behavior
  • Trypanosoma carassii
  • zebrafish

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