Persistent establishment of a tropical disease in Europe: the preadaptation of schistosomes to overwinter

Abstract : Background: Global changes promote the spread of infectious diseases worldwide. In this context, tropical uro-genital schistosomiasis is now permanently established in Corsica since its first emergence in 2013. The local persistence of the tropical pathogens (schistosomes) responsible for urogenital schistosomiasis at such latitudes might be explained by (i) the presence of its intermediate host, the snail Bulinus truncatus, (ii) the recurrent local reseeding of schistosomes by their vertebrate hosts (either human or animal) every summer, and/or (iii) the maintenance and survival of schistosomes within their snail hosts over winter. Methods: In this study we conducted an ecological experiment to assess the ability of temperate and tropical schistosome strains to survive in classical winter temperatures in Corsican rivers when infecting temperate (local) snail strains. We also quantified the ability of the schistosomes to complete their life-cycle post-overwintering when returned to classical summer water temperatures. Results: Our results show that Mediterranean molluscs are locally adapted to winter conditions compared to tropical molluscs. Moreover, temperate and tropical schistosome strains equally survived the cold and produced viable offspring when returned to optimal temperatures. These results indicate that schistosomes can overwinter under temperate climates when infecting locally adapted snails and might partly explain the establishment and maintenance of schistosomes in Corsica from year to year. Conclusions: The observed broader thermal range of schistosomes compared to that of their snail hosts was unexpected and clearly indicates that the spread and establishment of schistosomiasis in temperate countries relies primarily on the presence of the locally adapted snail host lineages, currently known to be present in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece.
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Stephen Mulero, Olivier Rey, Nathalie Arancibia, Santiago Mas-Coma, Jérôme Boissier. Persistent establishment of a tropical disease in Europe: the preadaptation of schistosomes to overwinter. Parasites and Vectors, BioMed Central, 2019, 12, pp.379. ⟨10.1186/s13071-019-3635-0⟩. ⟨hal-02264109⟩

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