The leishmaniases are vector-borne diseases that have a broad global distribution throughout much of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Despite representing a significant public health burden, our understanding of the global distribution of the leishmaniases remains vague, reliant upon expert opinion and limited to poor spatial resolution. A global assessment of the consensus of evidence for leishmaniasis was performed at a sub-national level by aggregating information from a variety of sources. A database of records of cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis occurrence was compiled from published literature, online reports, strain archives and GenBank accessions. These, with a suite of biologically relevant environmental covariates, were used in a boosted regression tree modelling framework to generate global environmental risk maps for the leishmaniases. These high-resolution evidence-based maps can help direct future surveillance activities, identify areas to target for disease control and inform future burden estimation efforts.
- Stephen Tollman, Wits University, South Africa
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Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic disease infecting hundreds of millions of people. Schistosomes use aquatic snails as intermediate hosts. A promising avenue for disease control involves leveraging innate host mechanisms to reduce snail vectorial capacity. In a genome-wide association study of Biomphalaria glabrata snails, we identify genomic region PTC2 which exhibits the largest known correlation with susceptibility to parasite infection (>15 fold effect). Using new genome assemblies with substantially higher contiguity than the Biomphalaria reference genome, we show that PTC2 haplotypes are exceptionally divergent in structure and sequence. This variation includes multi-kilobase indels containing entire genes, and orthologs for which most amino acid residues are polymorphic. RNA-Seq annotation reveals that most of these genes encode single-pass transmembrane proteins, as seen in another resistance region in the same species. Such groups of hyperdiverse snail proteins may mediate host-parasite interaction at the cell surface, offering promising targets for blocking the transmission of schistosomiasis.
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