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Vet Parasitol. 2005 Oct 24;133(2-3):127-32. Epub 2005 Apr 11.

What is new in the Wolbachia/Dirofilaria interaction?

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Department of Microbiology and Medical Zoology, Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico, P.O. Box 365067, San Juan, PR 00936-5067, USA.


Presence of transovarially-transmitted endosymbiontic Wolbachia bacteria in Dirofilaria immitis, and in other filariae of man and animals, presents a new paradigm for our understanding of pathogenesis, treatment and diagnosis of filarial infections. Many of the basic biological characteristics of Wolbachia have yet to be elucidated, but the results obtained to date suggest that canine or the feline hosts can be exposed to D. immitis Wolbachia when larvae, or adult worms, are killed; when Wolbachia are expulsed, with the deposition of microfilariae, from the uterus of the females; and possibly through the excretory system of both male and female worms. The two organs that have the greatest potential of being affected by the Wolbachial metabolic products/antigens released from the adult worms are the lungs and the kidneys. Population of Wolbachia in D. immitis is polymorphic. The life cycle of Wolbachia is complex and may consist of two reproductive modes: multiplication of the bacillary forms by binary fission and by a more complex mode which resembles the Chlamydia-like cycle that consists of three morphological stages: a small, dense body, an intermediate stage with a dense inclusion, and a bacillary form which represents the final product of development and maturation of the small, dense body. The Chlamydia-like cycle offers a potential survival strategy for the Wolbachia by producing more progeny than multiplication by binary fission, and appears to be more active during growth and development of embryos and of the larvae. The small, dense bodies may be the infectious forms responsible for the spread of Wolbachia through the canalicular system, within the lateral chords of filariae. An amorphous membrane that lines the perienteric surface of the body wall may represent a physical barrier that limits the spread and movement of Wolbachia to the perienteric surface of the lateral chords. Wolbachia in D. immitis may also offer therapeutic and diagnostic possibilities. Elimination of Wolbachia by chemotherapy, and the suppressive effect of aposymbiosis on embryonic development of D. immitis, may have potential application for control (sterilization of female worms) and treatment of dirofilariasis. However, the three stages in the life cycle of Wolbachia may be antigenically different and each stage may have a different susceptibility to therapeutic agents. Persistence of dormant small, dense bodies after treatment would allow the Wolbachia to re-establish once the conditions for development would become favorable. Detection of Wolbachial antigens provides an attractive diagnostic possibility to identify D. immitis early in the infection. Further studies on Wolbachia of filariae, including those of D. immitis, will undoubtedly reveal additional information that can be applied towards treatment, diagnosis, and control of filarial infections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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