Background: New drugs effective against adult filariae (macrofilaricides) would accelerate the elimination of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. Anti-Onchocerca drug development is hampered by the lack of a facile model. We postulated that SCID mice could be developed as a fmacrofilaricide screening model.
Methods: The filaricides: albendazole (ABZ), diethylcarbamazine (DEC), flubendazole (FBZ), ivermectin (IVM) and the anti-Wolbachia macrofilaricide, minocycline (MIN) were tested in Brugia malayi (Bm)-parasitized BALB/c SCID mice vs vehicle control (VC). Responses were compared to BALB/c wild type (WT). Onchocerca ochengi male worms or onchocercomata were surgically implanted into BALB/c SCID, CB.17 SCID, BALB/c WT mice or Meriones gerbils. Survival was evaluated at 7-15 days. BALB/c SCID were tested to evaluate the responsiveness of pre-clinical macrofilaricides FBZ and rifapentine (RIFAP) against male Onchocerca.
Results: WT and SCID responded with >95% efficacy following ABZ or DEC treatments against Bm larvae (P < 0.0001). IVM was partially filaricidal against Bm larvae in WT and SCID (WT; 39.8%, P = 0.0356 and SCID; 56.7%, P = 0.026). SCID responded similarly to WT following IVM treatment of microfilaraemias (WT; 79%, P = 0.0194. SCID; 76%, P = 0.0473). FBZ induced a total macrofilaricidal response against adult Bm in WT and SCID (WT; P = 0.0067, SCID; P = 0.0071). MIN induced a >90% reduction in Bm Wolbachia burdens (P < 0.0001) and a blockade of microfilarial release (P = 0.0215) in SCID. Male Onchocerca survival was significantly higher in SCID vs WT mice, but not gerbils, after +15 days (60% vs 22% vs 39% P = 0.0475). Onchocercoma implants had engrafted into host tissues, with evidence of neovascularisation, after +7 days and yielded viable macro/microfilariae ex vivo. FBZ induced a macrofilaricidal effect in Onchocerca male implanted SCID at +5 weeks (FBZ; 1.67% vs VC; 43.81%, P = 0.0089). Wolbachia loads within male Onchocerca were reduced by 99% in implanted SCID receiving RIFAP for +2 weeks.
Conclusions: We have developed a 'pan-filarial' small animal research model that is sufficiently robust, with adequate capacity and throughput, to screen existing and future pre-clinical candidate macrofilaricides. Pilot data suggests a murine onchocercoma xenograft model is achievable.