Genetic diversity of schistosomes and snails: implications for control
Molecular approaches are providing new insights into the genetic diversity of schistosomes and their intermediate snail hosts. For instance, molecular tools based on the polymerase chain reaction are being developed for the diagnosis of schistosomiasis and the detection of prepatent schistosome infections in snails at transmission sites. Robust phylogenies of the different species of Schistosoma, Bulinus and Biomphalaria have been determined and novel methods are available to identify the different and cryptic taxa involved. Microsatellite analyses and mitochondrial DNA sequencing methods have been developed and are contributing to a better understanding of the genetic structure of both schistosome and snail populations. New sampling procedures to capture DNA of eggs and larval stages of schistosomes in field situations are facilitating more detailed and ethically advantageous studies on parasite heterogeneity. Knowledge of the genetic diversity of schistosome and snail populations adds a further dimension to the monitoring and surveillance of disease, and the implementation of new molecular-based approaches will be of increasing importance in helping to assess the impact of schistosomiasis control strategies.