The genome of Onchocerca volvulus, agent of river blindness

Nat Microbiol. 2016 Nov 21:2:16216. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.216.


Human onchocerciasis is a serious neglected tropical disease caused by the filarial nematode Onchocerca volvulus that can lead to blindness and chronic disability. Control of the disease relies largely on mass administration of a single drug, and the development of new drugs and vaccines depends on a better knowledge of parasite biology. Here, we describe the chromosomes of O. volvulus and its Wolbachia endosymbiont. We provide the highest-quality sequence assembly for any parasitic nematode to date, giving a glimpse into the evolution of filarial parasite chromosomes and proteomes. This resource was used to investigate gene families with key functions that could be potentially exploited as targets for future drugs. Using metabolic reconstruction of the nematode and its endosymbiont, we identified enzymes that are likely to be essential for O. volvulus viability. In addition, we have generated a list of proteins that could be targeted by Federal-Drug-Agency-approved but repurposed drugs, providing starting points for anti-onchocerciasis drug development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genome, Helminth*
  • Onchocerca volvulus / genetics*
  • Onchocerciasis, Ocular / parasitology*
  • Wolbachia / genetics