Schistosoma species detection by environmental DNA assays in african freshwaters

Hind Alzaylaee, Rupert A. Collins, Gabriel Rinaldi, Asilatu Shechonge, Benjamin Ngatunga, Eric R. Morgan, Martin J. Genner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)


Background Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical parasitic disease associated with severe pathology, mortality and economic loss worldwide. Programs for disease control may benefit from specific and sensitive diagnostic methods to detect Schistosoma trematodes in aquatic environ-ments. Here we report the development of novel environmental DNA (eDNA) qPCR assays for the presence of the human-infecting species Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium and S. japonicum. Methodology/Principal findings We first tested the specificity of the assays across the three species using genomic DNA preparations which showed successful amplification of target sequences with no cross amplification between the three focal species. In addition, we evaluated the specificity of the assays using synthetic DNA of multiple Schistosoma species, and demonstrated a high overall specificity; however, S. japonicum and S. haematobium assays showed cross-spe-cies amplification with very closely-related species. We next tested the effectiveness of the S. mansoni assay using eDNA samples from aquaria containing infected host gastropods, with the target species revealed as present in all infected aquaria. Finally, we evaluated the effectiveness of the S. mansoni and S. haematobium assays using eDNA samples from eight discrete natural freshwater sites in Tanzania, and demonstrated strong correspon-dence between infection status established using eDNA and conventional assays of parasite prevalence in host snails. Conclusions/Significance Collectively, our results suggest that eDNA monitoring is able to detect schistosomes in freshwater bodies, but refinement of the field sampling, storage and assay methods are likely to optimise its performance. We anticipate that environmental DNA-based approaches will help to inform epidemiological studies and contribute to efforts to control and eliminate schistosomiasis in endemic areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0008129
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • DNA, Environmental/isolation & purification
  • DNA, Helminth/isolation & purification
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fresh Water/parasitology
  • Genes, Helminth/genetics
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques/veterinary
  • Phylogeny
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction/veterinary
  • Schistosoma/classification
  • Schistosoma haematobium/genetics
  • Schistosoma japonicum/genetics
  • Schistosoma mansoni/genetics
  • Schistosomiasis/epidemiology
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni/epidemiology
  • Snails/parasitology
  • Species Specificity
  • Tanzania


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