Intracytoplasmic Bacteria in Onchocerca Volvulus

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  • California Primate Research Center, University of California, Sección de Oncocercosis, Dirección General de Servicios de Salud, Davis, California 95616, Guatemala

Ultrastructural studies on Onchocerca volvulus disclosed intracellular organisms within the lateral chords of adult worms and of the larval stages. In the females the organisms were also present in the oogonia, oocytes, developing eggs and microfilariae. The organisms, found within vesicles of host (filarid) membrane and limited to the cytoplasm of infected cells, appeared to have a developmental cycle consisting of three morphologically distinct forms: a small spheroidal form up of 0.3 µm in size, a bacillary form up to 1.5 µm in length and 0.7 µm in diameter, and a third form, intermediate in size between the former and the latter, characterized by a dense inclusion. The intravesicular location and the developmental cycle consisting of three distinct forms are the two characteristics which suggest that these organisms are more similar to the chlamydiae than to the rickettsiae, in spite of their being transovarially transmitted. The significance of these findings with respect to the host-parasite relationship and pathogenesis of onchocerciasis is presently unknown and will require further study.

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