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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012 Jan;6(1):e1494. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001494. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

WormAssay: a novel computer application for whole-plate motion-based screening of macroscopic parasites.

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Sandler Center for Drug Discovery, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Lymphatic filariasis is caused by filarial nematode parasites, including Brugia malayi. Adult worms live in the lymphatic system and cause a strong immune reaction that leads to the obstruction of lymph vessels and swelling of the extremities. Chronic disease leads to the painful and disfiguring condition known as elephantiasis. Current drug therapy is effective against the microfilariae (larval stage) of the parasite, but no drugs are effective against the adult worms. One of the major stumbling blocks toward developing effective macrofilaricides to kill the adult worms is the lack of a high throughput screening method for candidate drugs. Current methods utilize systems that measure one well at a time and are time consuming and often expensive. We have developed a low-cost and simple visual imaging system to automate and quantify screening entire plates based on parasite movement. This system can be applied to the study of many macroparasites as well as other macroscopic organisms.

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