The symbiotic role of Wolbachia in Onchocercidae and its impact on filariasis

T. Bouchery, E. Lefoulon, G. Karadjian, A. Nieguitsila, C. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Symbiotic associations between eukaryotes and microorganisms are frequently observed in nature, and range along the continuum between parasitism and mutualism. The genus Wolbachia contains well-known intracellular bacteria of arthropods that induce several reproductive phenotypes that benefit the transmission of the bacteria. Interestingly, Wolbachia bacteria have been found in the Onchocercidae, a family of filarial nematodes, including species that cause human filarial diseases, e.g. lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. The endosymbiont is thought to be mutualistic in the Onchocercidae, and to provide essential metabolites to the filariae. Currently, Wolbachia bacteria are targets of antibiotic therapy with tetracyclines, which have profound effects on the development, viability and fertility of filarial parasites. This overview article presents the Onchocercidae and Wolbachia, and then discusses the origin and the nature of the symbiosis. It highlights the contribution of Wolbachia to the survival of the filariae and to the development of pathology. Finally, the infection control implications for filariases are debated. Potential directions for future research are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotherapy
  • Filariasis
  • Onchocercidae
  • Symbiosis
  • Wolbachia

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