Whole-genome sequencing of Schistosoma mansoni reveals extensive diversity with limited selection despite mass drug administration

06 Aug 2021
Duncan J. Berger, Thomas Crellen, Poppy H. L. Lamberton, Fiona Allan, Alan Tracey, Jennifer D. Noonan, Narcis B. Kabatereine, Edridah M. Tukahebwa, Moses Adriko, Nancy Holroyd, Joanne P. Webster, Matthew Berriman & James A. Cotton

Control and elimination of the parasitic disease schistosomiasis relies on mass administration of praziquantel. Whilst these programmes reduce infection prevalence and intensity, their impact on parasite transmission and evolution is poorly understood. Here we examine the genomic impact of repeated mass drug administration on Schistosoma mansoni populations with documented reduced praziquantel efficacy. We sequenced whole-genomes of 198 S. mansoni larvae from 34 Ugandan children from regions with contrasting praziquantel exposure. Parasites infecting children from Lake Victoria, a transmission hotspot, form a diverse panmictic population. A single round of treatment did not reduce this diversity with no apparent population contraction caused by long-term praziquantel use. We find evidence of positive selection acting on members of gene families previously implicated in praziquantel action, but detect no high frequency functionally impactful variants. As efforts to eliminate schistosomiasis intensify, our study provides a foundation for genomic surveillance of this major human parasite.