Exploring molecular variation in Schistosoma japonicum in China
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Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide. The main disease-causing agents, Schistosoma japonicum, S. mansoni and S. haematobium, are blood flukes that have complex life cycles involving a snail intermediate host. In Asia, S. japonicum causes hepatointestinal disease (schistosomiasis japonica) and is challenging to control due to a broad distribution of its snail hosts and range of animal reservoir hosts. In China, extensive efforts have been underway to control this parasite, but genetic variability in S. japonicum populations could represent an obstacle to eliminating schistosomiasis japonica. Although a draft genome sequence is available for S. japonicum, there has been no previous study of molecular variation in this parasite on a genome-wide scale. In this study, we conducted the first deep genomic exploration of seven S. japonicum populations from mainland China, constructed phylogenies using mitochondrial and nuclear genomic data sets, and established considerable variation between some of the populations in genes inferred to be linked to key cellular processes and/or pathogen-host interactions. Based on the findings from this study, we propose that verifying intraspecific conservation in vaccine or drug target candidates is an important first step toward developing effective vaccines and chemotherapies against schistosomiasis.
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Biochemistry and Cell Biology not elsewhere classified