Wolbachia endosymbionts and human disease control

Barton E. Slatko, Ashley N. Luck, Stephen L. Dobson, Jeremy M. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Most human filarial nematode parasites and arthropods are hosts for a bacterial endosymbiont, Wolbachia. In filaria, Wolbachia are required for normal development, fertility and survival, whereas in arthropods, they are largely parasitic and can influence development and reproduction, but are generally not required for host survival. Due to their obligate nature in filarial parasites, Wolbachia have been a target for drug discovery initiatives using several approaches including diversity and focused library screening and genomic sequence analysis. In vitro and in vivo anti-Wolbachia antibiotic treatments have been shown to have adulticidal activity, a long sought goal of filarial parasite drug discovery. In mosquitoes, it has been shown that the presence of Wolbachia can inhibit the transmission of certain viruses, such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, West Nile, as well as the infectivity of the malaria-causing protozoan, Plasmodium and filarial nematodes. Furthermore, Wolbachia can cause a form of conditional sterility that can be used to suppress populations of mosquitoes and additional medically important insects. Thus Wolbachia, a pandemic endosymbiont offers great potential for elimination of a wide-variety of devastating human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Arthropod
  • Chikungunya virus
  • Dengue virus
  • Drug discovery
  • Endosymbiont
  • Filariasis
  • Symbiosis
  • West Nile virus
  • Wolbachia
  • Yellow Fever virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Molecular Biology


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