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Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2002 Dec;96 Suppl 2:S117-27.

Wolbachia as a potential tool for suppressing filarial transmission.

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  • 1Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK.


There is currently a great deal of interest in Wolbachia because of their wide distribution in arthropods and filarial nematodes and their striking effects on the biology of their hosts, including a possible role in speciation. They manipulate the reproduction of arthropod hosts through various effects on their hosts' biology, particularly cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), to increase the proportion of infected individuals in the population, often to the point of fixation. This ability of Wolbachia to sweep through host populations indicates several potential applications of Wolbachia in the control of mosquito-borne disease. One uses Wolbachia-induced CI as a form of sterile-insect technique, to suppress mosquito populations. Another envisages the application of CI for population replacement, with the intention of preventing the transmission of human pathogens, by substituting desirable genotypes, including those carried in transgenes. A third possibility is to use Wolbachia to reduce the survival of mosquito populations and thereby reduce their ability to transmit the infection. This article provides an overview of the biological effects of Wolbachia on arthropod hosts, with discussion of the possible future exploitation of these effects in the control of filariasis.

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