Targeting wolbachia, doxycycline reduces pathology of lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne tropical disease that afflicts 120 million people worldwide, can cause debilitating swelling of the legs and genital areas. According to a new study published in the open access journal PLoS Pathogens, these pathologies can be treated with doxycycline, a tetracycline antibiotic. The treatment works by targeting Wolbachia bancrofti, a bacterial symbiote of the microscopic parasitical worms responsible for the disease.

Existing treatments for lymphatic filariasis kill the larvae of these worms, an effective measure against transmission, but offer only partial relief for people with adult worms in their blood. The studies suggest that doxycycline, which is already approved for human use, could provide an ameliorating treatment for persons suffering from the ailment, though mass treatment may still be a long way off.

Dr. Achim Hoerauf (University of Bonn, Germany) and colleagues used a double-blind trial in Ghana as the foundation of their report. In the course of the research, which was supported by grants from the European Commission and the VW-Foundation, 200 mg/day of doxycycline was administered to a sample group for a six week period. Follow ups at 4, 12, and 24 months showed a reduction in the pathology of the disease and an improvement in the condition of infected individuals.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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