Blood flukes within the genus Schistosoma still remain a major cause of disease in the tropics and subtropics and the study of their evolution has been an area of major debate and research. With the advent of modern molecular and genomic approaches deeper insights have been attained not only into the divergence and speciation of these worms, but also into the historic movement of these parasites from Asia into Africa, via migration and dispersal of definitive and snail intermediate hosts. This movement was subsequently followed by a radiation of Schistosoma species giving rise to the S. mansoni and S. haematobium groups, as well as the S. indicum group that reinvaded Asia. Each of these major evolutionary events has been marked by distinct changes in genomic structure evident in differences in mitochondrial gene order and nuclear chromosomal architecture between the species associated with Asia and Africa. Data from DNA sequencing, comparative molecular genomics and karyotyping are indicative of major constitutional genomic events which would have become fixed in the ancestral populations of these worms. Here we examine how modern genomic techniques may give a more in depth understanding of the evolution of schistosomes and highlight the complexity of speciation and divergence in this group.
- DNA, Helminth/chemistry
- Evolution, Molecular