In search of Wolbachia in human parasites, Wolbachia were identified in the sand flea Tunga penetrans. PCR and DNA sequencing of the bacterial 16S rDNA, the ftsZ cell division protein, the Wolbachia surface protein (wsp) and the Wolbachia aspartate aminotransferase genes revealed a high similarity to the respective sequences of endosymbionts of filarial nematodes. Using these sequences a phylogenetic tree was generated, that indicates a close relationship between Wolbachia from T. penetrans and from filarial parasites, but possibly as a member of a new supergroup. Ultrastructural studies showed that Wolbachia are abundant in the ovaries of neosomic fleas, whereas other, smaller and morphologically distinct, bacteria were observed in the lumen of the intestine. Wolbachia were labeled by immunohistology and immunogold electron microscopy using polyclonal antibodies against wsp of Drosophila, of the filarial parasite Dirofilaria immitis, or against hsp 60 from Yersinia enterocolitica. These results show that as in filariasis, humans with tungiasis are exposed to Wolbachia. Furthermore, antisera raised against proteins of Wolbachia from arthropods or from filarial parasites can be immunologically cross-reactive.