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Fasciola hepatica and lymnaeid snails occurring at very high altitude in South America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2003

S. MAS-COMA
Affiliation:
Departamento de Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Valencia, Av. Vicent Andrés Estellés s/n, 46100 Burjassot-Valencia, Spain
I. R. FUNATSU
Affiliation:
Departamento de Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Valencia, Av. Vicent Andrés Estellés s/n, 46100 Burjassot-Valencia, Spain
M. D. BARGUES
Affiliation:
Departamento de Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Valencia, Av. Vicent Andrés Estellés s/n, 46100 Burjassot-Valencia, Spain

Abstract

Fascioliasis due to the digenean species Fasciola hepatica has recently proved to be an important public health problem, with human cases reported in countries of the five continents, including severe symptoms and pathology, with singular epidemiological characteristics, and presenting human endemic areas ranging from hypo- to hyperendemic. One of the singular epidemiological characteristics of human fascioliasis is the link of the hyperendemic areas to very high altitude regions, at least in South America. The Northern Bolivian Altiplano, located at very high altitude (3800–4100 m), presents the highest prevalences and intensities of human fascioliasis known. Sequences of the internal transcribed spacers ITS-1 and ITS-2 of the nuclear ribosomal DNA of Altiplanic Fasciola hepatica and the intermediate snail host Lymnaea truncatula suggest that both were recently introduced from Europe. Studies were undertaken to understand how the liver fluke and its lymnaeid snail host adapted to the extreme environmental conditions of the high altitude and succeeded in giving rise to high infection rates. In experimental infections of Altiplanic lymnaeids carried out with liver fluke isolates from Altiplanic sheep and cattle, the following aspects were studied: miracidium development inside the egg, infectivity of miracidia, prepatent period, shedding period, chronobiology of cercarial emergence, number of cercariae shed by individual snails, survival of molluscs at the beginning of the shedding process, survival of infected snails after the end of the shedding period and longevity of shedding and non-shedding snails. When comparing the development characteristics of European F. hepatica and L. truncatula, a longer cercarial shedding period and a higher cercarial production were observed, both aspects related to a greater survival capacity of the infected lymnaeid snails from the Altiplano. These differences would appear to favour transmission and may be interpreted as strategies associated with adaptation to high altitude conditions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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