Basic Life Science Research Associate, Biology
Eliminating human parasitic disease often requires interrupting complex transmission pathways. Even when drugs to treat people are available, disease control can be difficult if the parasite can persist in nonhuman hosts. Here, we show that restoration of a natural predator of a parasite's intermediate hosts may enhance drug-based schistosomiasis control. Our study site was the Senegal River Basin, where villagers suffered a massive outbreak and persistent epidemic after the 1986 completion of the Diama Dam. The dam blocked the annual migration of native river prawns (Macrobrachium vollenhoveni) that are voracious predators of the snail intermediate hosts for schistosomiasis. We tested schistosomiasis control by reintroduced river prawns in a before-after-control-impact field experiment that tracked parasitism in snails and people at two matched villages after prawns were stocked at one village's river access point. The abundance of infected snails was 80% lower at that village, presumably because prawn predation reduced the abundance and average life span of latently infected snails. As expected from a reduction in infected snails, human schistosomiasis prevalence was 18 ± 5% lower and egg burden was 50 ± 8% lower at the prawn-stocking village compared with the control village. In a mathematical model of the system, stocking prawns, coupled with infrequent mass drug treatment, eliminates schistosomiasis from high-transmission sites. We conclude that restoring river prawns could be a novel contribution to controlling, or eliminating, schistosomiasis.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1502651112
View details for Web of Science ID 000358930600060
View details for PubMedID 26195752
Early malacological literature suggests that the outbreak of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by aquatic snails, in the Senegal River basin occurred due to ecological changes resulting from the construction of the Diama dam. The common treatment, the drug praziquantel, does not protect from the high risk of re-infection due to human contact with infested water on a daily basis. The construction of the dam interfered with the life cycle of the prawn Macrobrachium vollenhovenii by blocking its access to breeding grounds in the estuary. These prawns were demonstrated to be potential biological control agents, being effective predators of Schistosoma-susceptible snails. Here, we propose a responsible restocking strategy using all-male prawn populations which could provide sustainable disease control. Male prawns reach a larger size and have a lower tendency to migrate than females. We, therefore, expect that periodic restocking of all-male juveniles will decrease the prevalence of schistosomiasis and increase villagers' welfare. In this interdisciplinary study, we examined current prawn abundance along the river basin, complemented with a retrospective questionnaire completed by local fishermen. We revealed the current absence of prawns upriver and thus demonstrated the need for restocking. Since male prawns are suggested to be preferable for bio-control, we laid the molecular foundation for production of all-male M. vollenhovenii through a complete sequencing of the insulin-like androgenic gland-encoding gene (IAG), which is responsible for sexual differentiation in crustaceans. We also conducted bioinformatics and immunohistochemistry analyses to demonstrate the similarity of this sequence to the IAG of another Macrobrachium species in which neo-females are produced and their progeny are 100% males. At least 100 million people at risk of schistosomiasis are residents of areas that experienced water management manipulations. Our suggested non-breeding sustainable model of control-if proven successful-could prevent re-infections and thus prove useful throughout the world.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003060
View details for PubMedID 25166746
Human schistosomiasis is a common parasitic disease endemic in many tropical and subtropical countries. One barrier to achieving long-term control of this disease has been re-infection of treated patients when they swim, bathe, or wade in surface fresh water infested with snails that harbor and release larval parasites. Because some snail species are obligate intermediate hosts of schistosome parasites, removing snails may reduce parasitic larvae in the water, reducing re-infection risk. Here, we evaluate the potential for snail control by predatory freshwater prawns, Macrobrachium rosenbergii and M. vollenhovenii, native to Asia and Africa, respectively. Both prawn species are high value, protein-rich human food commodities, suggesting their cultivation may be beneficial in resource-poor settings where few other disease control options exist. In a series of predation trials in laboratory aquaria, we found both species to be voracious predators of schistosome-susceptible snails, hatchlings, and eggs, even in the presence of alternative food, with sustained average consumption rates of 12% of their body weight per day. Prawns showed a weak preference for Bulinus truncatus over Biomphalaria glabrata snails. Consumption rates were highly predictable based on the ratio of prawn: snail body mass, suggesting satiation-limited predation. Even the smallest prawns tested (0.5-2g) caused snail recruitment failure, despite high snail fecundity. With the World Health Organization turning attention toward schistosomiasis elimination, native prawn cultivation may be a viable snail control strategy that offers a win-win for public health and economic development.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.actatropica.2013.12.013
View details for Web of Science ID 000334001100009
View details for PubMedID 24388955