Dr. Kenneth M. Pfarr


The filarial nematodes Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Onchocerca volvulus are round worms that infect humans and cause diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, characterized by moderate to severe lymphedema (elephantiasis), and onchocerciasis, characterized by severe dermatitis and vision impairment (River blindness). An estimated 200 million people are infected with these worms and, in a proportion of the infected population, cause morbidity and even death. Current drugs being used to interrupt the transmission of these worms to uninfected persons, while very effective at killing the first stage larvae, present with problems. The drugs require several years of annual administration (5-15 years) and coverage of at least 65 percent of the affected communities. Additionally, there is some evidence for resistant worms developing, or at least sub-optimal efficacy.

All three of these filarial nematodes contain essential endosymbiotic bacteria of the genus Wolbachia. Using tetracycline or derivatives of tetracycline (doxycycline), Wolbachia can be depleted from worms in infected animal modes of filariasis and human patients. Worms that have been depleted of their endosymbionts are no longer to develop if they are larvae. In adult female worms depletions of Wolbachia results in a block in embryogenesis and oogenesis that is apparently permanent. Recently, we have shown that depletion of the endobacteria from W. bancrofti and O. volvulus results in death of the adult worms at the sight of infection several months after treatment. Because of these spectacular effects, Wolbachia have gained great interest as targets for controlling filarial infections. However, little is known about the endosymbiotic relationship between Wolbachia and their nematode hosts.

Persons interested in doing their practical, Bachelor or Diploma work in our lab should send their CV and academic transcripts to Dr. Kenneth Pfarr:  pfarr @ microbiology-bonn.de

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Monday, May 12, 2014 (All day)

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