In this paper, Bryan Gren fell,Edwin Michael and David Denham review the appropriateness of feline filariasis as a model of the population dynamics of human lymphatc filarial infection and disease. Because of the longevity of infection and our inability to measure the adult parasite population in humans, research in filariasis is particularly dependent on the use of laboratory animal models. We demonstrate that Brugia pahangi infection patterns in the cat closely parallel those of Brugia and Wuchereria in humans. Although primary infections in 'susceptible' cats are long-lived, repeatedly infected animals show evidence of concomitant immunity which prevents the establishment of later cohorts of infective larvae. Furthermore, there is some evidence from macro filarial length distributions of 'stunting' of adult worms during long-term repeat infections. Cats can also show an 'acute' response that spontaneously eliminates infections, and this appears to be due to a combination of intrinsic and dynamic mechanisms. As in humans, pathology in cat filariasis develops as a sequel to the asymptomatic microfilaremic state, largely as a result of re-expression of immunity. The relationship between macro filarial burdens and microfilariae in blood is positive but portrays ahigh degree of variability. The cat model provides an important tool for elucidating the relationships between infection, immunity and disease dynamics in lymphatic filariasis, and we conclude by suggesting directions for further work in this area.
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