Praziquantel decreases fecundity in Schistosoma mansoni adult worms that survive treatment: evidence from a laboratory life-history trade-offs selection study

16 Jun 2017
Lamberton PHL, Faust CL Webster JP

Background: Mass drug administration of praziquantel is the World Health Organization’s endorsed control strategy for schistosomiasis. A decade of annual treatments across sub-Saharan Africa has resulted in significant reductions of infection prevalence and intensity levels, although ‘hotspots’ remain. Repeated drug treatments place strong selective pressures on parasites, which may affect life-history traits that impact transmission dynamics. Understanding drug treatment responses and the evolution of such traits can help inform on how to minimise the risk of drug resistance developing, maximise sustainable control programme success, and improve diagnostic protocols.

Methods: We performed a four-generation Schistosoma mansoni praziquantel selection experiment in mice and snails. We used three S. mansoni lines: a praziquantel-resistant isolate (R), a praziquantel-susceptible isolate (S), and a coinfected line (RS), under three treatment regimens: untreated, 25 mg/kg praziquantel, or 50 mg/kg praziquantel. Lifehistory traits, including parasite adult-worm establishment, survival, reproduction (fecundity), and associated morbidity, were recorded in mice across all four generations. Predictor variables were tested in a series of generalized linear mixed effects models to determine which factors had a significant influence on parasite life-history traits in definitive hosts under different selection regimes.

Results: Praziquantel pressure significantly reduced adult-worm burdens across all generations and isolates, including within R-lines. However, previous drug treatment resulted in an increase in adult-worm establishment with increasing generation from P1 to F3. The highest worm numbers were in the co-infected RS line. Praziquantel treatment decreased adult-worm burden, but had a larger negative impact on the mean daily number of miracidia, a proxy for fecundity, across all three parasite isolates.