Population genetics of Oncomelania hupensis snails, intermediate hosts of Schistosoma japonium, from emerging, re-emerging or established habitats within China

Qiu, C and Lu, D-B and Deng, Y and Zou, H-Y and Liang, Y-S and Webster, J P (2019) Population genetics of Oncomelania hupensis snails, intermediate hosts of Schistosoma japonium, from emerging, re-emerging or established habitats within China. Acta Tropica, 197. p. 105048.

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Abstract

Schistosomiasis remains one of the world’s most significant neglected tropical diseases, second only to malaria in terms of socioeconomic impact. In 2014, China proposed the goal of schistosomiasis japonicum elimination by 2025. However, one major challenge is the widely distributed, and in certain cases potentially increasing, habitats of Oncomelania hupensis, the snail intermediate hosts of S. japonicum. Therefore, an understanding of population genetics of O. hupensis in new or re-emerged habitats, together with that of the established habitats with snail persistence, would be valuable in controlling and predicting the future transmission dynamics of schistosomiasis in China. Using nine microsatellite loci, we conducted population genetic analyses of snails sampled from one habitat where snails were detected for the first time, one (previously eliminated) habitat with re-emerged snails, and one habitat with established snail persistence. Results showed lower diversities, in terms of number of observed alleles per locus (Na), number of effective alleles per locus (NeA), observed (Ho) and expected heterozygosity (He), in snails from new or re-emerged snail habitats than from the habitat with snail persistence. The smallest effective population size was inferred in the re-emerged snail habitat, but the largest was in the new habitat rather than in the habitat with snail persistence. No bottleneck effects were detected in new or re-merged habitats. No or low sub-structure was inferred in new and persistent snail habitats. Snails from the three sites were clearly separated and low gene flow was estimated between sites. We propose that snails at the new habitat may have been introduced through immigration, whereas snails at the re-emerged habitat may be the consequence of those few snails remaining subsequently expanding through reproduction. We discuss our results in terms of their theoretical and applied implications.

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