a1 Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
a2 Department of Zoology, Wolfson Wellcome Biomedical Laboratories, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
Schistosome parasites commonly show specificity to their intermediate mollusc hosts and the degree of specificity can vary between parasite strains and geographical location. Here the role of miracidial behaviour in host specificity of Schistosoma haematobium on the islands of Zanzibar is investigated. In choice-chamber experiments, S. haematobium miracidia moved towards Bulinus globosus snail hosts in preference to empty chambers. In addition, miracidia preferred uninfected over patent B. globosus. This preference should benefit the parasite as patent snails are likely to have mounted an immune response to S. haematobium as well as providing poorer resources than uninfected snails. Miracidia also discriminated between the host B. globosus and the sympatric, non-host species Cleopatra ferruginea. In contrast, S. haematobium did not discriminate against the allopatric Bulinus nasutus. Penetration of the host by miracidia was investigated by screening snails 24 h after exposure using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with S. haematobium specific DraI repeat primers. There was no difference in the frequency of penetration of B. globosus versus B. nasutus. These responses to different snail species may reflect selection pressure to avoid sympatric non-hosts which represent a transmission dead end. The distribution of B. nasutus on Unguja is outside the endemic zone and so there is less chance of exposure to S. haematobium, hence there will be little selection pressure to avoid this non-host snail.
(Accepted August 19 2008)
(Online publication October 16 2008)