BACKGROUND: Trichobilharzia is the most species rich and widely distributed genus of schistosomes and is known throughout Europe and North America as an agent of human cercarial dermatitis. The disease is caused by an acute allergic reaction in the skin that develops as a consequence of repeated contact with water containing schistosomatid cercariae. However, despite historical outbreaks of the disease, there are no published records of accurately identified Trichobilharzia species from the UK.
METHODS: Two hundred Radix auricularia (L.) were sampled from a recreational fishing lake in Hampshire and emerging schistosomatid cercariae were collected for microscopy and DNA extraction. General morphological description of the cercariae was performed, alongside sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of the 28S ribosomal DNA for accurate species identification as well as comparisons of ITS1 in order to identify evolutionary affinities with other European populations. All molecular comparisons were performed using published sequences.
RESULTS: The phylogenetic analysis of 28S sequences identified the cercariae as Trichobilharzia franki. Two unique British ITS1 haplotypes were identified which were most closely related to haplotypes of T. franki populations from France. Haplotype network analysis indicated the mixing of T. franki populations throughout Europe. It is suggested that parasite distribution is the probable result of the movement of migratory waterfowl.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first accurate record of T. franki in the UK. The movement of T. franki with waterfowl could pose a considerable human health risk, as in mainland Europe, and signifies T. franki-associated human cercarial dermatitis as a re-emerging disease in the UK.
- Species Specificity