Molecular evidence supports an African affinity of the Neotropical freshwater gastropod, Biomphalaria glabrata, Say 1818, an intermediate host for Schistosoma mansoni

G Campbell, C S Jones, A E Lockyer, S Hughes, D Brown, L R Noble, D Rollinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Citations (Scopus)


Freshwater snails of the genus Biomphalaria, Preston 1910, are the most important and widely distributed intermediate hosts of Schistosoma mansoni, the blood fluke responsible for human intestinal schistosomiasis, in Africa and the Neotropics. S. mansoni is thought to have been imported repeatedly into the Americas during the last 500 years with the African slave trade. Surprisingly, considering that the New and Old World separated 95-106 million years (Myr) ago, the disease rapidly became established due to the presence of endemic susceptible hosts. Reconstructing the phylogenetic relationships within Biomphalaria may provide insights into the successful intercontinental spread of S. mansoni. Parsimony and distance analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences show African taxa to be monophyletic and Neotropical species paraphyletic, with Biomphalaria glabrata forming a separate clade from other Neotropical Biomphalaria, and ancestral to the African taxa. A west to east trans-Atlantic dispersal of a B. glabrata-like taxon, possibly as recently as the Plio-Pleistocene (1.8-3.6 Myr ago) according to a general mitochondrial clock, would fit these observations. Vicariance or an African origin for B. glabrata followed by multiple introductions to South America over the past 500 years with the African slave trade seem unlikely explanations. Knowledge of the phylogenetic relationships among important intermediate host species may prove useful in furthering control measures which exploit genetic differences in susceptibility to parasites, and in elucidating the evolution of schistosome resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2351-2358
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Biomphalaria glabrata
  • African and Neotropical snails
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • nuclear ribosomal DNA
  • phylogeny
  • Pleistocene
  • internal transcribed spacer
  • mitochondrial-DNA
  • genetic-variation
  • snail hosts
  • planorbidae
  • strategies
  • sequences
  • America
  • clock

Cite this