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Concept: Brugia malayi


Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a leading cause of morbidity in the tropical world. It is caused by the filarial parasites Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori and transmitted by vector mosquitoes. Currently a programme for the elimination of LF, Global Lympahtic Filariasis Elimination Programme (GPELF), is underway with the strategy of mass administration of single dose of diethylcarbamazine or ivermectin, in combination with an antihelminthic drug, albendazole. However, antifilarial drugs used in the progarmme are only microfilaricidal but not or only partially macrofilaricidal. Hence, there is a need to identify new targets for developing antifilarial drugs. Filarial parasites harbour rickettsial endosymbionts, Wolbachia sp., which play an important role in their biology and hence are considered as potential targets for antifilarial chemotherapy development. In this study, one of the cell division proteins of Wolbachia of the major lymphatic filarial parasite, Wuchereria bancrofti, viz., filamentation temperature-sensitive protein Z (FtsZ), was explored as a drug target. The gene coding for FtsZ protein was amplified from the genomic DNA of W. bancrofti, cloned and sequenced. The derived amino acid sequence of the gene revealed that FtsZ protein is 396 amino acids long and contained the tubulin motif (GGGTGTG) involved in GTP binding and the GTP hydrolyzing motif (NLDFAD). The FtsZ gene of endosymbiont showed limited sequence homology, but exhibited functional homology with β-tubulin of its host, W. bancrofti, as it had both the functional motifs and conserved amino acids that are critical for enzymatic activity. β-tubulin is the target for the anti-helminthic activity of albendazole and since FtsZ shares the functional homology with it may also be sensitive to albendazole. Therefore, the effect of albendazole was tested against Wolbachia occurring in mosquitoes instead of filarial parasites as the drug has lethal effect on the latter. Third instar larvae of Culex quinquefasciatus were treated with 0.25mg/ml of albendazole (test) or tetracycline (positive control) in the rearing medium for different intervals and tested for the presence of Wolbachia by FtsZ PCR. All the treated larvae were negative for the presence of the FtsZ band, whereas all the control larvae were positive. The findings of the study thus indicated that FtsZ is sensitive to albendazole. In view of this albendazole appears to have dual targets; FtsZ in Wolbachia and β- tubulin in W. bancrofti. Further, the functional domain of the gene was assessed for polymorphism among recombinant clones representing 120W. bancrofti parasites, prevalent across wide geographic areas of India and found to be highly conserved among them. Since it is highly conserved and plays an important role in Wolbachia cell division it appears to be a potential target for anti-filarial chemotherapy development.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Amino acid, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti


Lymphatic filariasis is caused by three closely related nematode parasites: Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori. These species have many ecological variants that differ in several aspects of their biology such as mosquito vector species, host range, periodicity, and morphology. Although the genome of B. malayi (the first genome sequenced from a parasitic nematode) has been available for more than five years, very little is known about genetic variability among the lymphatic dwelling filariae. The genetic diversity among these worms is not only interesting from a biological perspective, but it may have important practical implications for the Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, as the parasites may respond differently to diagnostic tests and/or medical interventions. Therefore, better information on their genetic variability is urgently needed. With improved methods for nucleic acid extraction and recent advances in sequencing chemistry and instrumentation, this gap can be filled relatively inexpensively. Improved information on filarial genetic diversity may increase the chances of success for lymphatic filariasis elimination programs.

Concepts: Malaria, Nematodes, Vector, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti


SUMMARY Brugia malayi is one of the parasitic worms which causes lymphatic filariasis in humans. Its geographical distribution includes a large part of Asia. Despite its wide distribution, very little is known about the genetic variation and molecular epidemiology of this species. In this study, the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) nucleotide sequences of B. malayi from microfilaria-positive human blood samples in Northeast Borneo Island were determined, and compared with published ITS1 sequences of B. malayi isolated from cats and humans in Thailand. Multiple alignment analysis revealed that B. malayi ITS1 sequences from Northeast Borneo were more similar to each other than to those from Thailand. Phylogenetic trees inferred using Neighbour-Joining and Maximum Parsimony methods showed similar topology, with 2 distinct B. malayi clusters. The first cluster consisted of Northeast Borneo B. malayi isolates, whereas the second consisted of the Thailand isolates. The findings of this study suggest that B. malayi in Borneo Island has diverged significantly from those of mainland Asia, and this has implications for the diagnosis of B. malayi infection across the region using ITS1-based molecular techniques.

Concepts: DNA, Species, Sequence, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Diethylcarbamazine, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi


In a placebo controlled field trial, the effects of doxycycline (200mg/day) for 23 days followed by doxycycline (200mg/day) in combination with albendazole (ABZ) (400mg/day) for 7 days on depletion of Wolbachia endobacteria from Wuchereria bancrofti and microfilaricidal activity were studied in 68 patients (34 males and 34 females) from West Bengal, India. The drugs in combination (i.e., doxycycline+ABZ) provided the best efficacy by totally eliminating the circulating microfilaria (mf) (in 42% cases) on day 365 with (99.8%, P<0.05) suppression even on day 365 post-treatment compared to both exclusive doxycycline (69%, P<0.05) and ABZ (89%, P<0.05) groups. Thus, our results have established that a 30-day course of doxycycline in combination with a 7-day course of ABZ is sufficient to ensure long-term reduction in mf level by depleting Wolbachia from worm tissues. Doxycycline combined with ABZ led to a greater reduction in mf density in blood at 4 months (post-treatment) in comparison to doxycycline or ABZ alone. There were significant differences between the three treatments after 12 months (post-treatment). Further, the impact of a 7-day regimen of ABZ was surprisingly good in reducing mf compared to doxycycline-alone group. Adverse reactions were mild. A 30-day course of doxycycline and ABZ in combination is a safe and well-tolerated treatment for lymphatic filariasis with significant activity against microfilaremia.

Concepts: Wolbachia, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Doxycycline, Neglected diseases, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti, Elephantiasis


Lymphatic filariasis (LF) and onchocerciasis are priority neglected tropical diseases targeted for elimination. The only safe drug treatment with substantial curative activity against the filarial nematodes responsible for LF (Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti) or onchocerciasis (Onchocerca volvulus) is doxycycline. The target of doxycycline is the essential endosymbiont, Wolbachia. Four to six weeks doxycycline therapy achieves >90% depletion of Wolbachia in worm tissues leading to blockade of embryogenesis, adult sterility and premature death 18-24 months post-treatment. Long treatment length and contraindications in children and pregnancy are obstacles to implementing doxycycline as a public health strategy. Here we determine, via preclinical infection models of Brugia malayi or Onchocerca ochengi that elevated exposures of orally-administered rifampicin can lead to Wolbachia depletions from filariae more rapidly than those achieved by doxycycline. Dose escalation of rifampicin achieves >90% Wolbachia depletion in time periods of 7 days in B. malayi and 14 days in O. ochengi. Using pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modelling and mouse-human bridging analysis, we conclude that clinically relevant dose elevations of rifampicin, which have recently been determined as safe in humans, could be administered as short courses to filariasis target populations with potential to reduce anti-Wolbachia curative therapy times to between one and two weeks.

Concepts: Nematodes, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti, Elephantiasis


Filarial nematodes currently infect up to 54 million people worldwide, with millions more at risk for infection, representing the leading cause of disability in the developing world. Brugia malayi is one of the causative agents of lymphatic filariasis and remains the only human filarial parasite that can be maintained in small laboratory animals. Many filarial nematode species, including B. malayi, carry an obligate endosymbiont, the alpha-proteobacteria Wolbachia, which can be eliminated through antibiotic treatment. Elimination of the endosymbiont interferes with development, reproduction, and survival of the worms within the mamalian host, a clear indicator that the Wolbachia are crucial for survival of the parasite. Little is understood about the mechanism underlying this symbiosis.

Concepts: Bacteria, Nematode, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Doxycycline, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Parthenogenesis


Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori infect over 100 million people worldwide and are the causative agents of lymphatic filariasis. Some parasite carriers are amicrofilaremic whilst others facilitate mosquito-based disease transmission through blood-circulating microfilariae (Mf). Recent findings, obtained largely from animal model systems, suggest that polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) contribute to parasitic nematode-directed type 2 immune responses. When exposed to certain pathogens PMNs release extracellular traps (NETs) in the form of chromatin loaded with various antimicrobial molecules and proteases.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti, Onchocercidae


More than 20% of the world’s population is at risk for infection by filarial nematodes and >180 million people worldwide are already infected. Along with infection comes significant morbidity that has a socioeconomic impact. The eight filarial nematodes that infect humans are Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori, Onchocerca volvulus, Loa loa, Mansonella perstans, Mansonella streptocerca, and Mansonella ozzardi, of which three have published draft genome sequences. Since all have humans as the definitive host, standard avenues of research that rely on culturing and genetics have often not been possible. Therefore, genome sequencing provides an important window into understanding the biology of these parasites. The need for large amounts of high quality genomic DNA from homozygous, inbred lines; the availability of only short sequence reads from next-generation sequencing platforms at a reasonable expense; and the lack of random large insert libraries has limited our ability to generate high quality genome sequences for these parasites. However, the Pacific Biosciences single molecule, real-time sequencing platform holds great promise in reducing input amounts and generating sufficiently long sequences that bypass the need for large insert paired libraries.

Concepts: DNA, Parasites, Nematodes, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Onchocercidae


Loa loa, the African eyeworm, is a major filarial pathogen of humans. Unlike most filariae, L. loa does not contain the obligate intracellular Wolbachia endosymbiont. We describe the 91.4-Mb genome of L. loa and that of the related filarial parasite Wuchereria bancrofti and predict 14,907 L. loa genes on the basis of microfilarial RNA sequencing. By comparing these genomes to that of another filarial parasite, Brugia malayi, and to those of several other nematodes, we demonstrate synteny among filariae but not with nonparasitic nematodes. The L. loa genome encodes many immunologically relevant genes, as well as protein kinases targeted by drugs currently approved for use in humans. Despite lacking Wolbachia, L. loa shows no new metabolic synthesis or transport capabilities compared to other filariae. These results suggest that the role of Wolbachia in filarial biology is more subtle than previously thought and reveal marked differences between parasitic and nonparasitic nematodes.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Virus, Genome, Filariasis, Brugia malayi


BACKGROUND: Filariasis, caused by two Brugia malayi, is a public health problem in Thailand. Currently, at least two locations in southern Thailand are reported to be active endemic areas. Two and four Mansonia species are primary and secondary vectors, respectively, of the nocturnally subperiodic race, whereas, Coquillettidia crassipes is a vector of the diurnally subperiodic race. Although several Anopheles species have been incriminated extensively as natural and/or suspected vectors of B. malayi, little is known about vector competence between indigenous Anopheles and this filaria in Thailand. Thus, the susceptibility levels of eight species members in the Thai An. hyrcanus group to nocturnally subperiodic B. malayi are presented herein, and the two main refractory factors that affect them in different degrees of susceptibility have been elucidated. METHODS: Aedes togoi (a control vector), An. argyropus, An. crawfordi, An. nigerrimus, An. nitidus, An. paraliae, An. peditaeniatus, An. pursati and An. sinensis were allowed to feed artificially on blood containing malayi microfilariae, and dissected 14 days after feeding. To determine factors that take effect at different susceptibility levels, stain-smeared blood meals were taken from the midguts of Ae. togoi, An. peditaeniatus, An. crawfordi, An. paraliae, An. sinensis and An. nitidus immediately after feeding, and their dissected-thoraxes 4 days post blood-feedings were examined consecutively for microfilariae and L1 larvae. RESULTS: The susceptibility rates of Ae. togoi, An. peditaeniatus, An. crawfordi, An. nigerrimus, An. argyropus, An. pursati, An. sinensis, An. paraliae and An. nitidus to B. malayi were 70–95%, 70–100%, 80–85%, 50–65%, 60%, 60%, 10%, 5%, and 0%, respectively. These susceptibility rates related clearly to the degrees of normal larval development in thoracic muscles, i.e., Ae. togoi, An. peditaeniatus, An. crawfordi, An. paraliae, An. sinensis and An. nitidus yielded normal L1 larvae of 93.15%, 96.34%, 97.33%, 23.60%, 15.38% and 0%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: An. peditaeniatus, An. crawfordi, An. nigerrimus, An. argyropus and An. pursati were high potential vectors. An. paraliae and An. sinensis were low potential vectors, while An. nitidus was a refractory vector. Two refractory mechanisms; direct toxicity and/or melanotic encapsulation against filarial larval were involved in the refractoriness of development in the thoracic muscles of the mosquito.

Concepts: Malaria, Larva, Anopheles, Mosquito, Filariasis, Brugia timori, Brugia malayi, Wuchereria bancrofti