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Wolbachia is a genus of inherited bacterium which infects arthropod species, including a high proportion of insects. It is one of the world's most common parasitic microbes and is potentially the most common reproductive parasite in the biosphere, for example more than 16% of neotropical insect species carry this bacterium.
Additional recommended knowledge
Association with disease
Outside of Insecta, Wolbachia infects a variety of isopod species, spiders, mites, and many species of filarial nematodes (a type of parasitic worm), including those causing onchocerciasis ("River Blindness") and elephantiasis in humans as well as heartworms in dogs. Not only are these disease-causing filarial infected with Wolbachia, but Wolbachia seem to play an inordinate role in these diseases. A large part of the pathogenicity of filarial nematodes is due to host immune response toward their Wolbachia. Elimination of Wolbachia from filarial nematodes generally results in either death or sterility. Consequently, current strategies for control of filarial nematode diseases include elimination of Wolbachia via the simple doxycycline antibiotic rather than far more toxic anti-nematode medications.
Role in sexual differentiation of hosts
Within arthropods, Wolbachia is notable for significantly altering the reproductive capabilities of its hosts. These bacteria can infect many different types of organs, but are most notable for the infections of the testes and ovaries of their hosts.
Wolbachia are known to cause four different phenotypes:
Wolbachia are present in mature eggs, but not mature sperm. Only infected females pass the infection on to their offspring. It is thought that the phenotypes caused by Wolbachia, especially cytoplasmic incompatibility, may be important in promoting speciation. Wolbachia can also cause misleading results in molecular cladistical analyses.
A 2007 paper published in Science reports that a complete copy of the Wolbachia genome can be found within the genome of the fruit fly Drosophila ananassae and that Wolbachia appeared to have transmitted large segments of its genome into at least 7 other species.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wolbachia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|