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Parasitology. 2010 Apr;137(5):841-54. doi: 10.1017/S0031182009992010. Epub 2010 Mar 4.

Immunohistological studies on neoplasms of female and male Onchocerca volvulus: filarial origin and absence of Wolbachia from tumor cells.

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Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 74, D-20359 Hamburg, Germany.


Up to 5% of untreated female Onchocerca volvulus filariae develop potentially fatal pleomorphic neoplasms, whose incidence is increased following ivermectin treatment. We studied the occurrence of 8 filarial proteins and of Wolbachia endobacteria in the tumor cells. Onchocercomas from patients, untreated and treated with antibiotics and anthelminthics, were examined by immunohistology. Neoplasms were diagnosed in 112 of 3587 female and in 2 of 1570 male O. volvulus. The following proteins and other compounds of O. volvulus were expressed in the cells of the neoplasms: glutathione S-transferase 1, lysosomal aspartic protease, cAMP-dependent protein kinase, alpha-enolase, aspartate aminotransferase, ankyrin E1, tropomyosin, heat shock protein 60, transforming growth factor-beta, and prostaglandin E(2). These findings prove the filarial origin of the neoplasms and confirm the pleomorphism of the tumor cells. Signs indicating malignancy of the neoplasms are described. Wolbachia were observed in the hypodermis, oocytes, and embryos of tumor-harbouring filariae using antibodies against Wolbachia surface protein, Wolbachia HtrA-type serine protease, and Wolbachia aspartate aminotransferase. In contrast, Wolbachia were not found in the cells of the neoplasms. Further, neoplasm-containing worms were not observed after more than 10 months after the start of sufficient treatment with doxycycline or doxycycline plus ivermectin.

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