In Vitro Cultivation and Development of Onchocerca volvulus and Onchocerca lienalis Microfilariae

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  • International Institute of Parasitology, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

Onchocerca volvulus and O. lienalis skin-derived microfilariae (mf) were cultured in vitro; parasite viability was assessed at intervals by measuring their ability to develop in Simulium ornatum. In the presence of monkey kidney feeder cells, both species retained full viability when cultured for up to 5 hr before intrathoracic injection into Simulium. In the absence of feeder cells and in contrast to O. lienalis, O. volvulus mf rapidly lost their viability. In further trials (including feeder cells), O. volvulus mf retained full viability for 14 days, while O. lienalis mf retained full viability for at least 19 days but with a proportion able to develop to third-stage larvae (L3) after 70 days in culture. In experiments using this system to culture O. volvulus mf (ex utero) derived from adult female worms but with the addition of reduced glutathione and/or 20-hydroxyecdysone, parasites were consistently more active over a 70-day period than those cultured without these additives. None of the mf cultured without additives were able to develop to L3 in Simulium when tested for up to 51 days in culture, while a proportion of mf incubated with reduced glutathione and/or 20-hydroxyecdysone produced small but significant numbers of L3 after 28, 43, and 51 days, representing the first time that uterine mf have been cultured to a form infective for the vector.

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