A mouse infection model and long-term lymphatic endothelium co-culture system to evaluate drugs against adult Brugia malayi.
Marriott AE., Furlong Silva J., Pionnier N., Sjoberg H., Archer J., Steven A., Kempf D., Taylor MJ., Turner JD.
The development of new drugs targeting adult-stage lymphatic filarial nematodes is hindered by the lack of a robust long-term in vitro culture model. Testing potential direct-acting and anti-Wolbachia therapeutic candidates against adult lymphatic filariae in vitro requires their propagation via chronic infection of gerbils. We evaluated Brugia malayi parasite burden data from male Mongolian gerbils compared with two immune-deficient mouse strains highly susceptible to B. malayi: CB.17 Severe-Combined Immmuno-Deficient (SCID) and interleukin-4 receptor alpha, interleukin-5 double knockout (IL-4Rα-/-IL-5-/-) mice. Adult worms generated in IL-4Rα-/-IL-5-/- mice were tested with different feeder cells (human embryonic kidney cells, human adult dermal lymphatic endothelial cells and human THP-1 monocyte differentiated macrophages) and comparative cell-free conditions to optimise and validate a long-term in vitro culture system. Cultured parasites were compared against those isolated from mice using motility scoring, metabolic viability assay (MTT), ex vivo microfilariae release assay and Wolbachia content by qPCR. A selected culture system was validated as a drug screen using reference anti-Wolbachia (doxycycline, ABBV-4083 / flubentylosin) or direct-acting compounds (flubendazole, suramin). BALB/c IL-4Rα-/-IL-5-/- or CB.17 SCID mice were superior to Mongolian gerbils in generating adult worms and supporting in vivo persistence for periods of up to 52 weeks. Adult females retrieved from BALB/c IL-4Rα-/-IL-5-/- mice could be cultured for up to 21 days in the presence of a lymphatic endothelial cell co-culture system with comparable motility, metabolic activity and Wolbachia titres to those maintained in vivo. Drug studies confirmed significant Wolbachia depletions or direct macrofilaricidal activities could be discerned when female B. malayi were cultured for 14 days. We therefore demonstrate a novel methodology to generate adult B. malayi in vivo and accurately evaluate drug efficacy ex vivo which may be adopted for drug screening with the dual benefit of reducing overall animal use and improving anti-filarial drug development.