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Interplay between host genetic variation and parasite transmission in the Biomphalaria glabrataSchistosoma mansoni system


Genetic variability is often predicted to enhance host fitness in the face of parasitism, yet this idea is rarely tested in an experimental setting, particularly with animal hosts. To assess this question, we used a relatively resistant line of snail hosts (Biomphalaria glabrata) to generate inbred and outcrossed progeny that were then either exposed or sham-exposed to the trematode parasite, Schistosoma mansoni. Results showed no difference in prevalence between the groups; however, large differences appeared in other host life history traits, particularly reproduction. Outcrossed progeny produced large numbers of eggs relative to inbred progeny especially in the face of infection. Furthermore, eggs produced by outcrossed snails took less time to hatch and exhibited greater hatching success compared to their inbred counterparts. Parasite reproduction demonstrated the opposite trend, with fewer parasites emerging from outcrossed snails compared to inbred individuals. This work shows that the introduction of genetic variation into inbred snail populations can have important implications for the viability of host populations and disease transmission.

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We would like to thank Jillian Detwiler and Elizabeth Thiele for their constructive comments on the manuscript. We would also like to thank Amy Wethington for helping to establish the snail crossing procedures. All work was performed using protocols approved by the Purdue Animal Care and Use Committee (PACUC). This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01-AI-42768) to DJM.

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Correspondence to Gregory J. Sandland.

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Sandland, G.J., Foster, A.V., Zavodna, M. et al. Interplay between host genetic variation and parasite transmission in the Biomphalaria glabrataSchistosoma mansoni system. Parasitol Res 101, 1083–1089 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-007-0593-9

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  • Hemocyte
  • Infected Snail
  • Isofemale Line
  • Snail Intermediate Host
  • Parasite Reproduction