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Infect Immun. 2003 Dec;71(12):6986-94.

Removal of Wolbachia from Brugia pahangi is closely linked to worm death and fecundity but does not result in altered lymphatic lesion formation in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus).

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Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA.


Approximately 30 years ago, researchers reported intracellular bacteria in filarial nematodes. These bacteria are relatives of the arthropod symbiont Wolbachia and occur in many filarial nematodes, including Brugia pahangi and Brugia malayi. Wolbachia bacteria have been implicated in a variety of roles, including filaria development and fecundity and the pathogenesis of lymphatic lesions associated with filarial infections. However, the role of the bacteria in worm biology or filarial disease is still not clear. The present experiments support previous data showing that tetracycline eliminates or reduces Wolbachia bacteria in B. pahangi in vivo. The elimination of Wolbachia was closely linked to a reduction in female fecundity and the viability of both sexes, suggesting that the killing of Wolbachia is detrimental to B. pahangi. The gerbils treated with tetracycline showed reduced levels of interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-5 mRNA in renal lymph nodes and spleens compared with the levels in B. pahangi-infected gerbils not treated with tetracycline. However, similar findings were noted in B. pahangi-infected gerbils treated with ivermectin, suggesting that the loss of circulating microfilariae, not the reduction of Wolbachia bacteria, was associated with the altered cytokine profile. Despite the change in T-cell cytokines, there was no difference in the sizes of renal lymph nodes isolated from gerbils in each treatment group. Furthermore, the numbers, sizes, or cellular compositions of granulomas examined in the lymphatics or renal lymph nodes did not differ with treatment. These data suggest that Wolbachia may not play a primary role in the formation of lymphatic lesions in gerbils chronically infected with B. pahangi.

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