Onchocerca volvulus, the causative agent of onchocerciasis, infects over 20 million people and can cause severe dermatitis and ocular conditions including blindness. Current treatments employed in mass drug administration programs do not kill adult female worms, and common diagnostic tests cannot reliably assess viability of adult worms. There is an urgent need for better diagnostic tests to facilitate monitoring the efficacy of new treatments and disease elimination efforts. Here, eight plasma samples collected from individuals infected with O. volvulus and seven from uninfected individuals were analyzed by MS/ MS spectrometry to directly identify O. volvulus proteins present in infected but absent in uninfected control samples. This direct proteomic approach for biomarker discovery had not been previously employed for onchocerciasis. Among all detected proteins, 19 biomarker candidates were supported by two or more unique peptides, identified in the plasma of at least three O. volvulus-infected human samples and absent in all control samples. Comprehensive analysis and ranking of these candidates included detailed functional annotation and a review of RNA-seq gene expression profiles. Isotope-labeled standard peptides were run in parallel and validated MS/MS peptide identifications for 15 peptides from 11 of the 19 proteins, and two infected urine and one uninfected urine sample was used for additional validation. A major antigen/OVOC11613 was identified as the most promising candidate with eight unique peptides across five plasma samples and one urine sample. Additional strong candidates included OVOC1523/ATP synthase, OVOC247/laminin and OVOC11626/PLK5, and along with OVOC11613, and were also detected in urine samples from onchocerciasis patients. This study has identified a promising novel set of proteins that will be carried forward to develop assays that can be used for diagnosis of O. volvulus infections and for monitoring treatment efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100454
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


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