Onchocerca volvulus-neurotransmitter tyramine is a biomarker for river blindness

Globisch D, Moreno AY, Hixon MS, Nunes AAK, Denery JR, Specht S, Hoerauf A, Janda KD

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (11) 4218-4223 [2013-03-12; online 2013-02-25]

Onchocerciasis, also known as "river blindness", is a neglected tropical disease infecting millions of people mainly in Africa and the Middle East but also in South America and Central America. Disease infectivity initiates from the filarial parasitic nematode Onchocerca volvulus, which is transmitted by the blackfly vector Simulium sp. carrying infectious third-stage larvae. Ivermectin has controlled transmission of microfilariae, with an African Program elimination target date of 2025. However, there is currently no point-of-care diagnostic that can distinguish the burden of infection--including active and/or past infection--and enable the elimination program to be effectively monitored. Here, we describe how liquid chromatography-MS-based urine metabolome analysis can be exploited for the identification of a unique biomarker, N-acetyltyramine-O,β-glucuronide (NATOG), a neurotransmitter-derived secretion metabolite from O. volvulus. The regulation of this tyramine neurotransmitter was found to be linked to patient disease infection, including the controversial antibiotic doxycycline treatment that has been shown to both sterilize and kill adult female worms. Further clues to its regulation have been elucidated through biosynthetic pathway determination within the nematode and its human host. Our results demonstrate that NATOG tracks O. volvulus metabolism in both worms and humans, and thus can be considered a host-specific biomarker for onchocerciasis progression. Liquid chromatography-MS-based urine metabolome analysis discovery of NATOG not only has broad implications for a noninvasive host-specific onchocerciasis diagnostic but provides a basis for the metabolome mining of other neglected tropical diseases for the discovery of distinct biomarkers and monitoring of disease progression.

Daniel Globisch

SciLifeLab Fellow

PubMed 23440222

DOI 10.1073/pnas.1221969110

Crossref 10.1073/pnas.1221969110

Publications 9.5.0