Disease-causing Parasites Hitch Ride On Trumpet Snails

In order to survive and breed, parasitic flatworms in Southeast Asia use several species of trumpet snail as hosts—posing a threat to public health.

AsianScientist (Aug. 26, 2021) – Instead of hailing a tiny Uber, an international team of scientists have found that parasitic flatworms grab a ride on trumpet snails. Their findings, published in Zoosystematics and Evolution, confirmed that the disease-causing flatworms use several species of trumpet snails in Southeast Asia as their first intermediate host.

The snails of concern belong to the genus Stenomelania and can be found near and in brackish water from India to the Western Pacific islands. Unfortunately, as their name suggests, all trumpet snails feature elongated and pointed shells—making those from the Stenomelania genus difficult to distinguish from relatives.

Worryingly, science does not know much else about these snails. What we do know, is that infections from the parasites attached to these snails are a major public health issue in Southeast Asia. Humans and animals alike can be infected by eating raw or improperly cooked fish that has ingested an infected snail.

“Trematode infections depend not only on the habit of people, but also on the presence of first and second intermediate host species, resulting in the endemic spread of parasites, such as intestinal and liver flukes in Thailand,” explained the authors in their study.

To gather more information about the parasitic worms, a team of researchers from Thailand and Germany led by Professor Kitja Apiraksena of Silpakorn University collected and studied a total of 1,551 Stenomelania snails. Four species of snails were collected from streams and rivers near the coastline of the south of Thailand. Of the collected snails, ten were infected with trematodes.

The parasites were found at seven of the studied localities and belonged to three different species—all of which are known to be found in the Krabi Province. The researchers suspect that their presence could be related to the circulation of sea currents, as the flow of water along the Andaman coast is affected by the monsoon season.

In light of their findings, the authors encourage further research into the biodiversity and biology of these snails to reduce susceptibility to such food-borne parasitic diseases.

“This finding indicates that the resulting parasitic diseases are still largely neglected in tropical medicine, so further studies should be performed on the prevalence of various trematode-borne diseases in locations with snail occurrences in Thailand,” they concluded.

The article can be found at: Apiraksena et al. (2020) Survey of Stenomelania Fisher, 1885 (Cerithioidea, Thiaridae): The Potential of Trematode Infections in a Newly-recorded Snail Genus at the Coast of Andaman Sea, South Thailand.


Source: Silpakorn University; Photo/Illustration: Apiraksena et al/Oi Keat Lam.
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