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Schistosome genetic diversity: the implications of population structure as detected with microsatellite markers

  • J. CURTIS (a1), R. E. SORENSEN (a2) and D. J. MINCHELLA (a2)

Blood flukes in the genus Schistosoma are important human parasites in tropical regions. A substantial amount of genetic diversity has been described in populations of these parasites using molecular markers. We first consider the extent of genetic variation found in Schistosoma mansoni and some factors that may be contributing to this variation. Recently, though, attempts have been made to analyze not only the genetic diversity but how that diversity is partitioned within natural populations of schistosomes. Studies with non-allelic molecular markers (e.g. RAPDs and mtVNTRs) have indicated that schistosome populations exhibit varying levels of gene flow among component subpopulations. The recent characterization of microsatellite markers for S. mansoni provided an opportunity to study schistosome population structure within a population of schistosomes from a single Brazilian village using allelic markers. Whereas the detection of population structure depends strongly on the type of analysis with a mitochondrial marker, analyses with a set of seven microsatellite loci consistently revealed moderate genetic differentiation when village boroughs were used to define parasite subpopulations and greater subdivision when human hosts defined subpopulations. Finally, we discuss the implications that such strong population structure might have on schistosome epidemiology.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Dennis J. Minchella, Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. Tel: 765-494-8188. Fax: 765-494-0876. E-mail:
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