This short video shows the agent of African eyeworm disease, Loa loa, via bright field wet mount microscopy. This video was capture by Dr. Ryan Relich at the IU School of Medicine.
Recently we published this paper in the journal PLOS One. The paper, “Differential Evolutionary Selection and Natural Evolvability Observed in ALT Proteins of Human Filarial Parasites”, had a major goal: using evolutionary biology to understand how infectious microbes change. Why care about changes in pathogens? Easy! When they change, they can do things like escape the immune protection created by either vaccines or natural infections, become resistant to current treatments, or evade detection by current lab tests. In some extreme cases, they can adapt to infect new host species (think of HIV, which adapted to humans from a closely related virus called SIV that circulates in wild primates). Studying what types of factors drive these changes may help us predict them before they happen in the future, allowing us to prepare accordingly. For our initial project in this line of work, we chose to study a family of parasitic worms called Filaria. We examined two species that cause extreme limb swelling (‘elephantiasis’) and another two that cause eye infections leading to corneal scarring and loss of eyesight (‘river blindness’). Both conditions are considered neglected tropical diseases (more on these and ways to help here), and lead to permanent disfigurement and lowered income potential.