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American Heartworm Society

2005 Guidelines for the Diagnosis, Prevention and Management of Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) Infection in Dogs

Most filarial nematodes, including D. immitis, harbor obligate, intracellular, gram-negative bacteria belonging to the genus Wolbachia (Rickettsiales). In infections with other filarial parasites, treatment with tetracyclines during the first month of infection was lethal to some Wolbachia-harboring filariae, but not to a filariae that did not harbor Wolbachia, and treatment of Wolbachia-harboring filariae suppressed microfilaremia. Similar prophylaxis studies with D. immitis have not been reported, but in one study, tetracycline treatment of heartworm-infected dogs resulted in infertility in the female worms. These bacteria also have been implicated in the pathogenesis of filarial diseases, possibly through their endotoxins. Recent studies have shown that a major surface protein of Wolbachia (WSP) induces a specific IgG response in hosts infected by D. immitis. It is hypothesized that Wolbachia contribute to pulmonary and renal inflammation through its surface protein WSP, independently from its endotoxin component. Studies to determine the effects of suppressing Wolbachia populations with doxycyline prior to adulticide therapy will be required to determine the clinical utility of this therapeutic approach. [/b]
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