Summary The symbiosis of filarial nematodes and rickettsial Wolbachia endobacteria has been exploited as a target for antibiotic therapy of filariasis. Depletion of Wolbachia after tetracycline treatment results in filarial sterility because of interruption of embryogenesis
and inhibits larval development and adult worm viability. The aim of this study was to investigate if antibiotic intervention of BALB/c mice infected with the rodent filaria Litomosoides sigmodontis with rifampicin or the combination of rifampicin and doxycycline can be used to
shorten the treatment period. Both regimens, when given over a period of 14 days initiated with infection, were sufficient to deplete Wolbachia as evidenced by immunohistology and semiquantitative PCR. Worm development and filarial load were significantly reduced in experiments
followed up until 63 days p.i. The therapy inhibited embryogenesis and led to filarial sterility. In contrast, treatment with doxycycline alone for 21 days led only to a modest reduction of Wolbachia, filarial growth retardation, worm viability and fertility. In conclusion,
the combination of antirickettsial drugs could be used as a suitable tool to explore the minimum duration of therapy required for the depletion of Wolbachia in parasitized hosts subsequent to the onset of patency in human and animal filariasis and the prevention of adverse reactions
in human infections.