The tropical freshwater snail Bulinus truncatus serves as an important intermediate host of several human and cattle Schistosoma species in many African regions. Despite some ecological and malacological studies, there is no information on the genetic diversity of B. truncatus in Egypt. Here, we sampled 70-100 snails in ten localities in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Per locality, we sequenced 10 snails at a partial fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene (cox1) and we genotyped 25-30 snails at six microsatellite markers. A total of nine mitochondrial haplotypes were detected, of which five were unique to the Nile Delta and three were unique to Upper Egypt, indicating that snail populations may have evolved independently in both regions. Bayesian clustering and hierarchical F-statistics using microsatellite markers further revealed strong population genetic structure at the level of locality. Observed heterozygosity was much lower compared to what is expected under random mating, which could be explained by high selfing rates, population size reductions and to a lesser extent by the Wahlund effect. Despite these observations, we found signatures of gene flow and cross-fertilization, even between snails from the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt, indicating that B. truncatus can travel across large distances in Egypt. These observations could have serious consequences for disease epidemiology, as it means that infected snails from one region could rapidly and unexpectedly spark a new epidemic in another distant region. This could be one of the factors explaining the rebound of human Schistosoma infections in the Nile Delta, despite decades of sustained schistosomiasis control.
- Journal Article