Effects of 6-week azithromycin treatment on the Wolbachia endobacteria of Onchocerca volvulus

Achim Hoerauf, Yeboah Marfo-Debrekyei, Marcelle Büttner, Alexander Yaw Debrah, Peter Konadu, Sabine Mand, Ohene Adjei, Dietrich W Büttner
Parasitology Research 2008, 103 (2): 279-86
The effects of azithromycin treatment on the presence of Wolbachia endobacteria and on the embryogenesis and microfilariae production of Onchocerca volvulus were studied. In 2002, in an endemic area in Ghana, 37 onchocerciasis patients were treated for 6 weeks with azithromycin: 23 patients received 250 mg every day, and 14 took 1,200 mg once a week. After 6 and/or 12 months, all palpable worm nodules were extirpated from 31 treated and nine additional untreated patients, and the presence of Wolbachia and embryogenesis were assessed by immunohistology. In nodules taken 6 months after treatment with either dose and 12 months after 1,200 mg/week, the Wolbachia loads of the worms were not different from those of untreated worms. However, 12 months after the 250-mg/day azithromycin regimen, significantly less female worms (65% compared to 92% untreated ones) presented many Wolbachia, although the reduction was less pronounced than observed in other studies after treatment with doxycycline. Embryogenesis and microfilariae production were not reduced. It is concluded that azithromycin administered alone for 6 weeks at 250 mg/day or 1,200 mg/week is not suitable for treatment of human onchocerciasis. But daily azithromycin should be studied in combination with other drugs and with other doses.

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