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Population genomic analyses of schistosome parasites highlight critical challenges facing end-game elimination efforts

By Jonathan A. Shortt, Laura E. Timm, Nicole R Hales, Zachary L Nikolakis, Drew R Schield, Blair W Perry, Yang Liu, Bo Zhong, Todd A Castoe, Elizabeth J Carlton, David D. Pollock

Posted 01 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.30.070656

Schistosomiasis persists in some Asian regions despite targeted end-game elimination measures. To determine the causes of this persistence, we performed reduced representation genome sequencing on Schistosoma japonicum miracidia collected across multiple years from transmission hotspots in Sichuan, China. We discovered strong geographic structure, suggesting that local rather than imported reservoirs are key sources of infection persistence. At the village level, parasites collected after praziquantel treatment are closely related to local pre-treatment populations. Schistosomes within villages are also highly related, suggesting that only a few parasites from a limited number of hosts drive re-infection. The close familial relationships among miracidia from different human hosts also implicates short transmission routes among humans. At the individual host level, genetic evidence indicates that multiple humans retain infections following referral for treatment. Our findings suggest that end-game schistosomiasis control measures should focus on completely extirpating local parasite reservoirs and confirming successful treatment of infected human hosts. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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