Schistosoma japonicum still causes severe parasitic disease in mainland China, but mainly in areas along the Yangtze River. However, the genetic diversity in populations of S. japonicum has not been well understood across its geographical distribution, and such data may provide insights into the epidemiology and possible control strategies for schistosomiasis.
In this study infected Oncomelania snails were collected from areas in the middle and lower (ML) reaches of the Yangtze River, including Hubei, Hunan, Anhui, Jiangxi and Jiangsu provinces, and in the upper reaches of the river, including Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest (SW) China. The adult parasites obtained from experimentally infected mice using isolated cercariae were sequenced individually for several fragments of mitochondrial regions, including Cytb-ND4L-ND4, 16S-12S and ND1. Populations in the ML reaches exhibited a relatively high level of diversity in nucleotides and haplotypes, whereas a low level was observed for populations in the SW, using either each single fragment or the combined sequence of the three fragments. Pairwise analyses of F-statistics (Fst) revealed a significant genetic difference between populations in the ML reaches and those in the SW, with limited gene flow and no shared haplotypes in between. It is rather obvious that genetic diversity in the populations of S. japonicum was significantly correlated with the geographical distance, and the geographical separation/isolation was considered to be the major factor accounting for the observed difference between populations in the ML reaches and those in the SW in China.
S. japonicum in mainland China exhibits a high degree of genetic diversity, with a similar pattern of genetic diversity as observed in the intermediate host snails in the same region in China.
Despite the existing threat of schistosomiasis in some rural areas along the Yangtze River, the genetic diversity of Schistosoma japonicum has not been investigated across its wide geographical distribution in China, and such information may provide insight into the disease epidemiology and the development of its control measures. In this study, the adult parasites, obtained through infecting mice with cercariae from snails of the genus Oncomelania collected from a wide range of localities in currently endemic areas of schistosomiasis in the middle and lower (ML) reaches of the Yangtze River, and in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the upper reaches of the river in southwest (SW) China, were sequenced individually for mitochondrial genes. In general, a relatively high degree of genetic variation was observed in populations in the ML reaches in terms of nucleotide and haplotype diversity, but a low level was observed in populations in the SW. The significant difference in genetic diversity as revealed by F-statistics, and the existence of no shared haplotypes, were observed between populations in the ML reaches and those in the SW, indicating the effect of geographical separation/isolation upon the schistosomes and probably the parasite-snail system in China.