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Concept: Onchocerciasis


Wolbachia endosymbionts carried by filarial nematodes give rise to the neglected diseases African river blindness and lymphatic filariasis afflicting millions worldwide. Here we identify new Wolbachia-disrupting compounds by conducting high-throughput cell-based chemical screens using a Wolbachia-infected, fluorescently labeled Drosophila cell line. This screen yielded several Wolbachia-disrupting compounds including three that resembled Albendazole, a widely used anthelmintic drug that targets nematode microtubules. Follow-up studies demonstrate that a common Albendazole metabolite, Albendazole sulfone, reduces intracellular Wolbachia titer both in Drosophila melanogaster and Brugia malayi, the nematode responsible for lymphatic filariasis. Significantly, Albendazole sulfone does not disrupt Drosophila microtubule organization, suggesting that this compound reduces titer through direct targeting of Wolbachia. Accordingly, both DNA staining and FtsZ immunofluorescence demonstrates that Albendazole sulfone treatment induces Wolbachia elongation, a phenotype indicative of binary fission defects. This suggests that the efficacy of Albendazole in treating filarial nematode-based diseases is attributable to dual targeting of nematode microtubules and their Wolbachia endosymbionts.

Concepts: Model organism, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Brugia timori, Hookworm, Elephantiasis, Onchocerciasis


This study reports ivermectin and moxidectin egg reappearance periods (ERP) from UK horses with persistently positive faecal egg counts (FEC), defined as positive FEC within the ERP of an anthelmintic post-treatment, or with FECs that remained positive after the normal ERP post-anthelmintic treatment. A selected population of UK pleasure horses deemed at high risk of strongyle infection was studied. The earliest ERP recorded after ivermectin or moxidectin, using first positive FEC, was 5 weeks. From 16 premises where moxidectin was used, five had ERP ≥12 weeks using two further metrics. For premises where moxidectin was administered to only one animal (present or tested), and evaluated as one group (n = 61), ERP was ≥10 weeks. For premises where ivermectin was used, the ERP was ≥5 weeks. Premises with only one horse (present or tested), dosed with ivermectin (n = 31), analysed as one group, demonstrated egg reappearance ≥6 weeks. These field data suggest shortened ERPs following macrocyclic lactone treatment compared to previously published values (8-10 and >13 weeks respectively) when these drugs were first marketed.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Mammal, The Normal, Horse, Normal distribution, Anarchy in the U.K., Anthelmintics, Onchocerciasis


Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is a neglected tropical disease that has been successfully targeted by mass drug treatment programs in the Americas and small parts of Africa. Achieving the long-term goal of elimination of onchocerciasis, however, requires additional tools, including drugs, vaccines, and biomarkers of infection. Here, we describe the transcriptome and proteome profiles of the major vector and the human host stages (L1, L2, L3, molting L3, L4, adult male, and adult female) of Onchocerca volvulus along with the proteome of each parasitic stage and of its Wolbachia endosymbiont (wOv). In so doing, we have identified stage-specific pathways important to the parasite’s adaptation to its human host during its early development. Further, we generated a protein array that, when screened with well-characterized human samples, identified novel diagnostic biomarkers of O. volvulus infection and new potential vaccine candidates. This immunomic approach not only demonstrates the power of this postgenomic discovery platform but also provides additional tools for onchocerciasis control programs.

Concepts: Immune system, Malaria, Nematodes, Proteomics, Neglected diseases, Tropical diseases, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


Control of onchocerciasis as a public health problem in Africa relies on annual mass ivermectin distribution. New tools are needed to achieve elimination of infection. This study determined in a small number of Onchocerca volvulus infected individuals whether moxidectin, a veterinary anthelminthic, is safe enough to administer it in a future large study to further characterize moxidectin’s safety and efficacy. Effects on the parasite were also assessed.

Concepts: Health care, Africa, Infection, Nematodes, Malnutrition, Control, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


Human onchocerciasis is a serious neglected tropical disease caused by the filarial nematode Onchocerca volvulus that can lead to blindness and chronic disability. Control of the disease relies largely on mass administration of a single drug, and the development of new drugs and vaccines depends on a better knowledge of parasite biology. Here, we describe the chromosomes of O. volvulus and its Wolbachia endosymbiont. We provide the highest-quality sequence assembly for any parasitic nematode to date, giving a glimpse into the evolution of filarial parasite chromosomes and proteomes. This resource was used to investigate gene families with key functions that could be potentially exploited as targets for future drugs. Using metabolic reconstruction of the nematode and its endosymbiont, we identified enzymes that are likely to be essential for O. volvulus viability. In addition, we have generated a list of proteins that could be targeted by Federal-Drug-Agency-approved but repurposed drugs, providing starting points for anti-onchocerciasis drug development.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Nematodes, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


Ongoing elimination efforts have altered the global distribution of Onchocerca volvulus, the agent of river blindness, and further population restructuring is expected as efforts continue. Therefore, a better understanding of population genetic processes and their effect on biogeography is needed to support elimination goals. We describe O. volvulus genome variation in 27 isolates from the early 1990s (before widespread mass treatment) from four distinct locales: Ecuador, Uganda, the West African forest and the West African savanna. We observed genetic substructuring between Ecuador and West Africa and between the West African forest and savanna bioclimes, with evidence of unidirectional gene flow from savanna to forest strains. We identified forest:savanna-discriminatory genomic regions and report a set of ancestry informative loci that can be used to differentiate between forest, savanna and admixed isolates, which has not previously been possible. We observed mito-nuclear discordance possibly stemming from incomplete lineage sorting. The catalogue of the nuclear, mitochondrial and endosymbiont DNA variants generated in this study will support future basic and translational onchocerciasis research, with particular relevance for ongoing control programmes, and boost efforts to characterize drug, vaccine and diagnostic targets.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Genome, Africa, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


Abu Hamed, Sudan, the northernmost location of onchocerciasis in the world, began community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) in 1998, with annual treatments enhanced to semiannual in 2007. We assessed the status of the parasite transmission in 2011 entomologically, parasitologically, and serologically. O-150 pool screening showed no parasite DNA in 17,537 black flies collected in 2011 (95% confidence interval upper limit [95% CI UL] = 0.023). Skin microfilariae, nodules, and signs of skin disease were absent in 536 individuals in seven local communities. Similarly, no evidence of Onchocerca volvulus Ov16 antibodies was found in 6,756 school children ≤ 10 years (95% CI UL = 0.03%). Because this assessment of the focus meets the 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for interrupted transmission, treatment was halted in 2012, and a post-treatment surveillance period was initiated in anticipation of declaration of disease elimination in this area. We provide the first evidence in East Africa that long-term CDTI alone can interrupt transmission of onchocerciasis.

Concepts: Africa, World Health Organization, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus, Interrupt, Non-maskable interrupt


Treatment of onchocerciasis using mass ivermectin administration has reduced morbidity and transmission throughout Africa and Central/South America. Mass drug administration is likely to exert selection pressure on parasites, and phenotypic and genetic changes in several Onchocerca volvulus populations from Cameroon and Ghana-exposed to more than a decade of regular ivermectin treatment-have raised concern that sub-optimal responses to ivermectin’s anti-fecundity effect are becoming more frequent and may spread.

Concepts: Genetics, Mutation, Natural selection, Evolutionary biology, Selection, Debut albums, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


The objective of the study was to determine whether annual ivermectin treatment in the Nyagak-Bondo onchocerciasis focus could safely be withdrawn. Baseline skin snip microfilariae (mf) and nodule prevalence data from six communities were compared with data collected in the 2011 follow-up in seven communities. Follow-up mf data in 607 adults and 145 children were compared with baseline (300 adults and 58 children). Flies collected in 2011were dissected, and poolscreen analysis was applied to ascertain transmission. Nodule prevalence in adults dropped from 81.7% to 11.0% (P < 0.0001), and mf prevalence dropped from 97.0% to 23.2% (P < 0.0001). In children, mf prevalence decreased from 79.3% to 14.1% (P < 0.0001). Parous and infection rates of 401 flies that were dissected were 52.9% and 1.5%, respectively, whereas the infective rate on flies examination by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was 1.92% and annual transmission potential was 26.9. Stopping ivermectin treatment may result in onchocerciasis recrudescence.

Concepts: DNA, Polymerase chain reaction, Nematodes, DNA polymerase, Thermus aquaticus, Chain reaction, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus


The endosymbiotic bacteria, Wolbachia, induce neutrophilic responses to the human helminth pathogen Onchocerca volvulus. The formation of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs), has been implicated in anti-microbial defence, but has not been identified in human helminth infection. Here, we demonstrate NETs formation in human onchocerciasis. Extracellular NETs and neutrophils were visualised around O. volvulus in nodules excised from untreated patients but not in nodules from patients treated with the anti-Wolbachia drug, doxycycline. Whole Wolbachia or microspheres coated with a synthetic Wolbachia lipopeptide (WoLP) of the major nematode Wolbachia TLR2/6 ligand, peptidoglycan associated lipoprotein, induced NETosis in human neutrophils in vitro. TLR6 dependency of Wolbachia and WoLP NETosis was demonstrated using purified neutrophils from TLR6 deficient mice. Thus, we demonstrate for the first time that NETosis occurs during natural human helminth infection and demonstrate a mechanism of NETosis induction via Wolbachia endobacteria and direct ligation of Wolbachia lipoprotein by neutrophil TLR2/6.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Nematodes, Endosymbiont, Neutrophil granulocyte, Wolbachia, Onchocerciasis, Onchocerca volvulus