On Wednesday June 21st, 2017 before the start of the International C. elegans Meeting, we held a workshop designed to bring parasitologists and C. elegans researchers together. The workshop was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Integrative Organismal Systems. The goal was to cover the broad theme of C. elegans as a model for parasitic nematode biology. We had six invited speakers covering a range of nematodes and approaches and also featured four lightning talks from submitted abstracts.

Soil-dwelling helminths such as hookworms, whipworms, and Ascaris infect hundreds of millions of people globally, and also infect livestock and crops. Dick Davis (University of Colorado School of Medicine) gave an overview of Ascaris, highlighting resources, tools, and key questions in this system. Two fascinating features of the system he discussed were somatic DNA elimination, in which 15% of the genome is removed in somatic cells during embryogenesis, and early zygotic genome transcription commencing remarkably early (immediately following fertilization). Elissa Hallem (UCLA) discussed parasitic nematode sensory behaviors with respect to host seeking. Using both Strongyloides nematodes and C. elegans, her group is exploring the neurobiology of how parasites find their hosts. Tiffany Baiocchi, a PhD student with Adler Dillman (University of California, Riverside) presented her work on novel odorants produced from nematode­-parasitized insect cadavers and the behavioral responses this odorant triggers in both free-­living and parasitic nematodes. Jonathan Ewbank (Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille- Luminy) gave a lightning talk on assembling the Nippostrongyloides brasieliensis genome and dealing with complex repeats; this nematode is a parasite of rodents and a useful model for human hookworm infection.

Two experts discussed filarial parasites, a group of nematodes that cause lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. Several of these species carry obligate endosymbiotic bacteria (Wolbachia), which is an attractive therapeutic target. Malina Bakowski (California Institute for Biomedical Research) discussed her high-throughput screens to identify potent anti-Wolbachia molecules. Sara Lustigman (New York Blood Center) presented on the role of “omics” and molecular tools in Brugia species efforts to eliminate nematodes that cause the human disease filariasis. Conor Caffrey (University of California, San Diego) also presented a high-content screening system for flatworms which cause schistosomiasis.

Adrian Wolstenholme (University of Georgia) discussed the problem of resistance to anthelminthics and the mechanisms of resistance. His group uses a combination of heterologous studies in C. elegans and work in parasites such as Brugia malayi and Haemonchus contortus to explore potential mechanisms of resistance to drugs such as ivermectin and diethylcarbamizine. Nidhi Sharma, a Ph.D student with John Gilleard (University of Calgary) presented a lightning talk on the role of UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) enzymes in benzimidazole drug biotransformation by nematodes. Keeping with the theme of glycosylation,  Patricia Berninsone (University of Nevada, Reno) gave a lightning talk on her identification of nematode phosphorylcholine-modified N-glycoproteins using C. elegans.

This was the third time that the workshop was held and it brought together 77 participants to explore a range of approaches and systems to explore parasitic nematode biology and to define areas where C. elegans researchers can make significant impact. Going forward, we aim to integrate the workshop into regular program of the worm meeting as having it beforehand limits the ability of some researchers attend. Look for us at the 2019 Worm Meeting!