The Domestic Dog as a Laboratory Host for Brugia malayi

Of the three nematodes responsible for lymphatic filariasis in humans, only Brugia malayi is actively maintained in research settings owing to its viability in small animal hosts, principal among which is the domestic cat. While the microfilaremic feline host is necessary for propagation of parasites on any significant scale, this system is plagued by a number of challenges not as pronounced in canine filarial models. For this reason, we investigated the capacity in which dogs may serve as competent laboratory hosts for B. malayi. We infected a total of 20 dogs by subcutaneous injection of 500 B. malayi third-stage larvae (L3) in either a single (n = 10) or repeated infection events (125 L3 per week for four weeks; n = 10). Within each group, half of the individuals were injected in the inguinal region and half in the dorsum of the hind paw. To track the course of microfilaremia in this host, blood samples were examined by microscopy biweekly for two years following infection. Additionally, to identify cellular responses with potential value as predictors of patency, we measured peripheral blood leukocyte counts for the first year of infection. A total of 10 of 20 dogs developed detectable microfilaremia. Peak microfilaria density varied but attained levels useful for parasite propagation (median = 1933 mL-1; range: 33-9950 mL-1). Nine of these dogs remained patent at 104 weeks. A two-way ANOVA revealed no significant differences between infection groups in lifetime microfilaria production (p = 0.42), nor did regression analysis reveal any likely predictive relationships to leukocyte values. The results of this study demonstrate the competence of the dog as a host for B. malayi and its potential to serve in the laboratory role currently provided by the cat, while also clarifying the potential for zoonosis in filariasis-endemic regions.

Christopher C Evans, Katelin E Greenway, Elyssa J Campbell, Michael T Dzimianski, Abdelmoneim Mansour, John W McCall, Andrew R Moorhead. Pathogens. 2022 Sep 21;11(10):1073. doi: 10.3390/pathogens11101073.