In yet another example of long-delayed discovery, it turns out that you can treat a number of filarial diseases, such as elephantiasis or onchocerciasis (river blindness) with tetracycline or doxycycline.
Heedless of the evolutionary imperative to do no unnecessary harm, these parasitic worms cause all kinds of trouble, some of it by a surprising mechanism. They carry Wolbachia, a symbiotic bacteria, and it seems Wolbachia proteins are responsible for most of the inflammatory damage, through an endotoxin-like activity. By the way, Wolbachia is the Chickenman of parasites and extremely interesting in itself.
Antibiotic treatment sterilizes filiarial nematodes, inhibits larval development, and reduces viability of adult worms. I will bet any amount of money that poorly educated doctors (drunken remittance men, etc) in Africa had good results (by accident) using tetracycline on people with filarial disease as far back as the 1950s. It must have happened again and again and again – and since few of those doctors ever went to Harvard, I’ll bet some of them noticed it. There is a good chance that one or two of them actually tried to write up their results, but of course no journal would publish that kind of nonsense.