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Vet Parasitol. 2014 Sep 15;205(1-2):318-29. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2014.06.006. Epub 2014 Jun 14.

Reproductive biology of Onchocerca ochengi, a nodule forming filarial nematode in zebu cattle.

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Department for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 35, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Institute of Evolution and Ecology, Department of Comparative Zoology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany; Programme Onchocercoses field station of the University of Tübingen, BP 65 Ngaoundéré, Cameroon.
Department for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 35, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:


Onchocerca ochengi is a nodule-forming filarial nematode parasite of cattle in tropical Africa and closely related to the human pathogen Onchocerca volvulus. The adult worms reside in intradermal nodules. While females are sedentary, males may move between nodules. The first stage larvae (microfilariae) disperse in the skin of the host waiting to be taken up by the intermediate host. The density of microfilariae in the skin is largely independent of the number of adult worms present indicating some form of density dependent control. Recently, Onchocerca sp. Siisa, a form of Onchocerca distinguishable from O. ochengi by mitochondrial DNA sequences but not by morphology, was described to occur in cattle. This raised the question if Onchocerca sp. Siisa represents a different mitochondrial clade of O. ochengi or a new species. In order to study the reproductive biology and to understand this self-control of the off-spring population we systematically analyzed all Onchocerca nodules from the skin of one zebu cow and we examined a sample of microfilariae from a skin biopsy. We identified 87 O. ochengi females and 146 males. 56 (64.4%) of the females contained developing embryos. In order to assign the progeny to their respective parents we determined the genotypes at six nuclear and two mitochondrial molecular genetic markers in the adult worms, in a fraction of the progeny present in the uteri of the females and in the skin microfilariae. The 121 skin microfilariae we analyzed originated from at least 17 different mothers, which contributed rather differently to the total. Forty-five larvae (37.2%) were the progeny of a single female. Of the adult worms 16.7% were of the type Onchocerca sp. Siisa. These worms appeared to interbreed freely with the rest of the O. ochengi population and therefore belong to the same species.


Bovine parasite; Filarial nematode; Genetic diversity; Onchocerca ochengi; Onchocerca sp. Siisa; Reproductive biology

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