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Cryptic intermediate snail host of the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica in Africa

Mahulu, Anna, Clewing, Catharina, Stelbrink, Björn, Chibwana, Fred D., Tumwebaze, Immaculate, Stothard, Russell J. ORCID: and Albrecht, Christian (2019) 'Cryptic intermediate snail host of the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica in Africa'. Parasites & Vectors, Vol 12, Issue 1, e573.

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Snails such as Galba truncatula are hosts for trematode flukes causing fascioliasis, a zoonosis that is a major public health problem. Galba truncatula has recently been shown to be a cryptic species complex. African populations of Galba spp. are not yet studied using molecular assessments and is imperative to do so and reconstruct the centre of origin of Galba and to understand when and by what means it may have colonized the highlands of Africa and to what extent humans might have been involved in that process.
Samples from all known sub-ranges throughout Africa and new samples from Europe and Asia were obtained. We used a combination of two mitochondrial (cox1 and 16S) and one nuclear (ITS2) markers and phylogenetic, divergence time estimates and phylogeographical methods to determine the identity and biogeographical affinities. We also reconstructed the colonization history including the likely mode of dispersal and tested for the presence of cryptic Galba species in Africa.
Galba truncatula is restricted to the Palaearctic region of the continent, namely Morocco. All sub-Saharan populations proved to be a distinct species according to the phylogenetic analyses and genetic distance. We propose to use the existing name Galba mweruensis (Connolly, 1929) for this species which is morphologically indistinguishable
from the other two species hitherto known to occur in northern Africa, i.e. G. truncatula and G. schirazensis. Sub-tropical Africa has been colonized only once in either the Pliocene and possibly Miocene. Diversification within G. mweruensis is dated to the Plio-Pleistocene and thus human-mediated dispersal can be ruled out for the initial colonization of the isolated mountain ranges. There are potentially even more cryptic species in high altitude areas of Africa as outlined by the distinctness of the population found at the top of Mt. Elgon, Uganda.
From a novel genetic inspection of available African material, a hitherto neglected distinct species, G. mweruensis, now appears a major host of F. hepatica throughout sub-Saharan Africa. A closer examination of trematode parasites hosted by this species is needed in order to understand transmission patterns in highlands throughout eastern and southern Africa. We encourage future studies to inspect other high altitudes areas in Africa in light of parasites of either veterinary or medical importance.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: QX Parasitology > Helminths. Annelida > QX 353 Trematoda
QX Parasitology > Helminths. Annelida > QX 365 Fasciola
QX Parasitology > Insects. Other Parasites > QX 675 Mollusca
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
Faculty: Department: Biological Sciences > Department of Tropical Disease Biology
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Cathy Waldron
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2019 11:07
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2019 12:14


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