Does multiple hosts mean multiple parasites? Population genetic structure of Schistosoma japonicum between definitive host species
Multi-host parasites, those capable of infecting more than one species of host, are responsible for the majority of all zoonotic, emerging or persistent human and animal diseases and are considered one of the major challenges for the biomedical sciences in the 21st century. We characterized the population structure of the multi-host parasite Schistosoma japonicum in relation to its definitive host species by genotyping miracidia collected from humans and domestic animals across five villages around the Yangtze River in Anhui Province, mainland China, using microsatellite markers. High levels of polymorphisms were observed and two main genetic clusters were identified which separated water buffalo, cattle and humans from goats, pigs, dogs and cats. We thereby believe that we present the first evidence of definitive host-based genetic variation in Schistosoma japonicum which has important epidemiological, evolutionary, medical and veterinary implications.