Genetic structure of Schstosoma mansoni in western Kenya: the effects of geography and host sharing.

TitleGenetic structure of Schstosoma mansoni in western Kenya: the effects of geography and host sharing.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsSteinauer ML, Hanelt B, Agola LE, Mkoji GM, Loker ES
JournalInternational journal for parasitology
Date Published2009 Oct
KeywordsAnimals, Female, Fresh Water, Genetic Markers, Host-Parasite Interactions, Humans, Kenya, Male, Microsatellite Repeats, Schistosoma mansoni, Schistosomiasis mansoni, Snails, Virulence

We examined the spatial structure of Schistosoma mansoni, a parasite of humans, from natural infections at two levels: across the Lake Victoria basin of Kenya and among snail hosts. Using 20 microsatellite markers we examined geographic patterns of relatedness and population structure of cercariae and found weak, but significant structure detected by some, but not all analyses. We hypothesise structure created by aggregations of clonal individuals or adherence of hosts to local transmission sites is eroded by high amounts of gene flow in the region. This finding also supports previous hypotheses concerning the evolution of drug resistance in the region. Intrasnail dynamics were investigated in the context of aggregation and kin selection theory to determine how relatedness and also sex influence host sharing and host exploitation. Cercarial production did not differ significantly between snails with one or two genotypes suggesting that mixed infections resulted in decreased individual fitness and provides a framework for reproductive competition. Coinfection patterns in snails were independent of parasite relatedness indicating that schistosomes were not aggregated according to their relatedness and that kin selection was not influencing host sharing. Additionally, host exploitation in coinfections (measured by cercarial production) was not negatively correlated with relatedness, as predicted by classical models due to increased competition and thus exploitation when parasites are unrelated. Because of the low levels of relatedness within the population, schistosomes may rarely encounter close relatives and kin selection mechanisms that influence the distribution of individuals within snails or the virulence mode of the parasites may simply have not evolved.

Alternate JournalInt. J. Parasitol.