Neglected tropical diseases caused by parasitic nematodes inflict an immense health and socioeconomic burden throughout much of the developing world. Current estimates indicate that more than two billion people are infected with nematodes, resulting in the loss of 14 million disability-adjusted life years per annum. Although these parasites cause significant mortality, they primarily cause chronic morbidity through a wide range of severe clinical ailments. Treatment options for nematode infections are restricted to a small number of anthelmintic drugs, and the rapid expansion of anthelmintic mass drug administration raises concerns of drug resistance. Preservation of existing drugs is necessary, as well as the development of new treatment options and methods of control. We focus this review on how the democratization of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology can be enlisted to improve our understanding of the biology of nematode parasites and our ability to treat the infections they cause. We will first explore how this robust method of genome manipulation can be used to newly exploit the powerful model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans for parasitology research. We will then discuss potential avenues to develop CRISPR/Cas9 editing protocols in filarial nematodes. Lastly, we will propose potential ways in which CRISPR/Cas9 can be used to engineer gene drives that target the transmission of mosquito-borne filarial nematodes.
Keywords: CRISPR; filariasis; gene drives; mosquito; neglected tropical diseases.
© 2016 The Authors. The FEBS Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Federation of European Biochemical Societies.