Dr Kelly Johnston

Post Doctoral Research Assistant

Areas of interest

Wolbachia bacteria of filarial nematodes including the role of Wolbachiain the pathogenesis of filariasis, Wolbachia as an antifilarial drug target and the development of Wolbachia cell culture systems.


Kelly Johnston graduated in 2001 with a degree in Parasitology from the University of Glasgow, which included a 12-month work placement in the Parasitology Division of Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh. She joined the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 2001 to begin a Wellcome Trust Prize Studentship and obtained her PhD in 2005. Kelly is now continuing her research within the Filariasis Research Laboratory as a post-doctoral research assistant.


Endosymbiotic bacteria, Wolbachia, are present in most species of filarial nematodes, including those that cause lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis in humans.These bacteria are essential for parasite survival and fecundity and are thus seen as an important drug target for filarial chemotherapy.


As obligate intracellular bacteria, nematode Wolbachia cannot be cultured in a cell-free environment. One goal, therefore, of my research is to develop a cell culture system for nematode Wolbachia that could be used to generate large numbers of Wolbachia for biochemical and immunological analysis and also have the potential to be utilised as a screening system for the development of novel antifilarial chemotherapeutic agents. Arthropod Wolbachia can be cultured in continuous cell lines (see Figures) and these cells are currently being investigated as a model screening system while the development of nematode Wolbachia culture system is ongoing.

Selected publications

  • Recent Publications

    Clare, RachelCook, DarrenJohnston, KellyFord, LouiseWard, Stephen and Taylor, Mark (2015) 'Development and Validation of a High-Throughput Anti-Wolbachia Whole-Cell Screen: A Route to Macrofilaricidal Drugs against Onchocerciasis and Lymphatic Filariasis'. Journal of Biomolecular Screening, Vol 20, Issue 1, pp. 64-69.

    Johnston, KellyFord, LouiseUmareddy, IndiraTownson, SimonSpecht, SabinePfarr, KennethHoerauf, Achim,Altmeyer, Ralf and Taylor, Mark (2014) 'Repurposing of approved drugs from the human pharmacopoeia to target Wolbachia endosymbionts of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis'. International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance, Vol 4, Issue 3, pp. 278-286.

    Voronin, DenisGuimaraes, AnaMolyneux, GemmaJohnston, KellyFord, Louise and Taylor, Mark (2014) 'Wolbachia lipoproteins: abundance, localisation and serology of Wolbachia peptidoglycan associated lipoprotein and the Type IV Secretion System component, VirB6 from Brugia malayi and Aedes albopictus'. Parasites and Vectors, Vol 7, Issue 1, p. 462.

    Tamarozzi, FrancescaWright, Helen LJohnston, KellyEdwards, Steven WTurner, Joseph and Taylor, Mark(2014) 'Human filarial Wolbachia lipopeptide directly activates human neutrophils in vitro.'. Parasite Immunology, Vol 36, Issue 10, pp. 494-502.

    Foster, Jeremy MLandmann, FrédéricFord, LouiseJohnston, KellyElsasser, Sarah CSchulte-Hostedde, Albrecht ITaylor, Mark and Slatko, Barton E (2014) 'Absence of Wolbachia endobacteria in the human parasitic nematode Dracunculus medinensis and two related Dracunculus species infecting wildlife'. Parasites and Vectors, Vol 7, Issue 1, p. 140. 

    Selected Publications

    Turner JD, Tendongfor N, Esum M, Johnston KL, Langley RS, Ford L, Faragher B, Specht S, Mand S, Hoerauf A, Enyong P, Wanji S and Taylor MJ (2010). Macrofilaricidal activity after doxycycline only treatment of Onchocerca volvulus in an area of Loa loa co-endemicity: a randomized controlled trial. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 4: e660.

    Turner JD, Langley RS, Johnston KL, Gentil K, Ford L, Wu B, Graham M, Sharpley F, Slatko B, Pearlman E and Taylor MJ (2009).  Wolbachia lipoprotein stimulates innate and adaptive immunity through Toll-like receptors 2 and 6 to induce disease manifestations of filariasis.  Journal of Biological Chemistry 284: 22364-22378.

    Foster J, Kumar S, Ford L, Johnston KL, Ben R, Graeff-Teixeira C and Taylor MJ (2008). Absence of Wolbachiaendobacteria in the non-filariid nematodes Angiostrongylus cantonensis and A. costaricensisParasites and Vectors1: 31.

    Johnston KL and Taylor MJ (2007). Wolbachia in filarial parasites: targets for filarial infection and disease control.Current Infectious Disease Reports 9: 55-59.

    Johnston KL and Taylor MJ (2006). Wolbachia and Filarial Nematode Diseases in Humans. In: Rickettsial Diseases: Old and New. Raoult D and Parola P (Eds.). Taylor and Francis Group LLC, New York, USA.

    Turner JD, Langley RS, Johnston KL, Egerton GL, Wanji S and Taylor MJ (2006). Wolbachia endosymbiotic bacteria of Brugia malayi mediate macrophage tolerance to TLR and CD40 specific stimuli in a MyD88 dependent manner.Journal of Immunology 177: 1240-1249.

    Bartley DJ, Jackson E, Johnston K, Coop RL, Mitchell GB, SalesJ and Jackson F (2003). A survey of anthelmintic resistant nematode parasites in Scottish sheep flocks. Veterinary Parasitology 117: 61-71.

    Ranford-Cartwright LC, Johnston KL, Abdel-Muhsin AM, Khan BK and Babiker HA (2002). Critical comparison of molecular genotyping methods for detection of drug-resistant Plasmodium falciparumTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 96: 568-572.