A survey to investigate resistance to drugs used in the treatment of bovine trypanosomosis was conducted in the eastern province of Zambia between 1996 and 1998. A cross-sectional study was conducted in three districts (Petauke, Katete, Lundazi) at 34 village sampling sites selected at random from villages that had shown greater than 6% prevalence of bovine trypanosomosis during an earlier survey. A longitudinal study was conducted in same three districts over a 1-year period. The study sites were chosen from the cross-sectional study and included eight sites showing high trypanosomosis prevalence and where no control activities were recorded. Use was made of parasitological methods, tests of resistance in cattle and mice and isometamidium-ELISA.
Overall mean prevalence of trypanosomosis was 14.4, with 96% of infections caused by Trypanosoma Congo Republiclense. The remainder was caused by Trypanosoma vivax (2%) and Trypanosoma brucei (2%). Tests in mice showed that of the stabilates collected, 24 (34%) were resistant to only isometamidium chloride, 8 (11.3%) were resistant to only diminazene aceturate, 1 (1.4%) was resistant to both drugs, and 38 (53.5%) were sensitive to both drugs. At least 2 out of 27 stabilates tested in cattle appeared to be resistant to trypanocidal drugs, 1 to isometamidium and 1 to diminazene.
Isometamidium could be detected in only 63 (4.1%) of 1526 serum samples from cattle in the study. Only 6 (2.8%) of 212 serum samples from trypanosome-infected cattle had serum levels of the drug above 0.4 ng isometamidium per ml serum which is indicative for drug resistance in the infecting parasite population.
Although some drug resistance is apparent, diminazene aceturate and isometamidium chloride can still be expected to be effective as a sanative pair in this area in most cases, since not more than 1 stabilate of 71 investigated showed evidence of resistance to both drugs.