Genetic evidence for the role of non-human primates as reservoir hosts for human schistosomiasis


Schistosomiasis is a chronic parasitic disease, that affects over 207 million people and causes over 200,000 deaths annually, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Although many health measures have been carried out to limit parasite transmission, significant numbers of non-human primates such as Chlorocebus aethiops (Ch. aethiops) (vervet) and Papio anubis (baboon) are infected with S. mansoni, notably in Ethiopia, where they are expected to have potentially significant implications for transmission and control efforts.



The objective of this study was to assess and compare the genetic diversity and population structure of S. mansoni isolates from human and non-human primates free-ranging in close proximity to villages in selected endemic areas of Ethiopia.



A cross-sectional study was conducted in three transmission sites: Bochesa, Kime and Fincha. A total of 2,356 S. mansoni miracidia were directly isolated from fecal specimens of 104 hosts (i.e. 60 human hosts and 44 non-human primates). We performed DNA extraction and PCR amplification using fourteen microsatellite loci.



At population scale we showed strong genetic structure between the three sample sites. At the definitive host scale, we observed that host factors can shape the genetic composition of parasite infra-populations. First, in male patients, we observed a positive link between parasite genetic diversity and the age of the patients. Second, we observed a difference in genetic diversity which was high in human males, medium in human females and low in non-human primates (NHPs). Finally, whatever the transmission site no genetic structure was observed between human and non-human primates, however, there appears to be little barriers, if any, host specificity of the S. mansoni populations with cross-host infections.



Occurrence of infection of a single host with multiple S. mansoni strains and inter- and intra-host genetic variations was observed. Substantial genetic diversity and gene flow across the S. mansoni population occurred at each site and non-human primates likely play a role in local transmission and maintenance of infection. Therefore, public health and wildlife professionals should work together to improve disease control and elimination strategies.

Author summary


Schistosomiasis is a chronic disease caused by flukes (trematodes). The definitive host spectrum of schistosomes, whether human, non-human primates (NHPs) or other mammals, is highly dependent on the schistosome species concerned. Genetic diversity and population structure studies of S. mansoni have provided insights into the variation of natural populations. Understanding S. mansoni genetic diversity and population structure of isolates from human and non-human primate hosts living in close proximity showed the occurrence of infection of a single host with multiple S. mansoni strains and inter- and intra-host genetic variations. In this article, the researchers assert the fact that genetic approach reveals that parasites from the three different sites are independent. Thus, we could consider the three sites as geographical replicates showing the influence of NHPs in parasitic transmission in Ethiopia. This study provides insights into the epidemiology, genetic diversity and population structure of S. mansoni in human and non-human primates in Ethiopia, all of which are crucial for the control of schistosomiasis.

Full Text

Publisher's official version
201 Mo
S1 Table. Natural host spectrum of Schistosoma mansoni.
-21 Ko
S2 Table. MS Database.
-314 Ko
S3 Table. Genetic diversity indices (He, Ar, Fis and number of breeders) for each infrapopulation.
-29 Ko
S4 Table. Results from general linear models examining the association of parasite population genetic indexes (He, Ar, Number of breeders and Fis) with host variables (sex and age).
-17 Ko
S1 Fig. Population structures of Schistosoma mansoni miracidia using Graphic 'deltaK'.
-79 Ko
How to cite
Kebede Tadesse, Bech Nicolas, Allienne Jean-François, Olivier Rey, Erko Berhanu, Boissier Jerome (2020). Genetic evidence for the role of non-human primates as reservoir hosts for human schistosomiasis. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases. 14 (9). e0008538 (20p.).,

Copy this text