Genome-wide analysis of Schistosoma mansoni reveals population structure and praziquantel drug selection pressure within Ugandan hot-spot communities


Populations within schistosomiasis control areas, especially those in Africa, are recommended to receive regular mass drug administration (MDA) with praziquantel (PZQ) as the main strategy for controlling the disease. The impact of PZQ treatment on schistosome genetics remains poorly understood, and is limited by a lack of high-resolution genetic data on the population structure of parasites within these control areas. We generated whole-genome sequence data from 174 individual miracidia collected from both children and adults from fishing communities on islands in Lake Victoria in Uganda that had received either annual or quarterly MDA with PZQ over four years, including samples collected immediately before and four weeks after treatment. Genome variation within and between samples was characterised and we investigated genomic signatures of natural selection acting on these populations that could be due to PZQ treatment. The parasite population on these islands was more diverse than found in nearby villages on the lake shore. We saw little or no genetic differentiation between villages, or between the groups of villages with different treatment intensity, but slightly higher genetic diversity within the pre-treatment compared to post-treatment parasite populations. We identified classes of genes significantly enriched within regions of the genome with evidence of recent positive selection among post-treatment and intensively treated parasite populations. The differential selection observed in post-treatment and pre-treatment parasite populations could be linked to any reduced susceptibility of parasites to praziquantel treatment.

James Cotton
James Cotton
Senior Staff Scientist

My research interests are in the genomics, and particularly population genomics of parasites, particularly those that cause neglected tropical diseases