Filarial infections are characterized by immunopathological phenomena, that are responsible for the onset of often dramatic pathological outcomes, such as blindness (Onchocerca volvulus) and elephantiasis (W. bancrofti). In addition, the long-term survival (as long as 10 years) of these parasites in otherwise immunocompetent hosts indicates that these nematodes are capable of manipulating the host immune response. The ground-breaking discovery of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia, which resides in most filarial nematodes causing disease, has led to increasing interest in the role it may play in immuno-modulation, pro-inflammatory pathology and other aspects of filarial infection. Indeed, Wolbachia has been shown to be responsible for exacerbating inflammation (as in river blindness), while at the same time blocking efficient elimination of parasites through the host immune response (Onchocerca ochengi). While studies aimed at identifying Wolbachia as a potential target for anti-filarial therapy are at the forefront of current research, understanding its role in the immunology of filarial infection is a fascinating field that has yet to uncover many secrets.
Keywords: Filarial nematodes, Wolbachia, symbiosis, reproductive parasite, PAMPs, immuno-modulation, pathology, pro-inflammatory, immune response, filariasis
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