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Genetic diversity of <i>Trypanosoma cruzi</i> parasites infecting dogs in southern Louisiana sheds light on parasite transmission cycles and serological diagnostic performance

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 17 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Eric Dumonteil, Ardem Elmayan, Alicia Majeau, Weihong Tu, Brandy Duhon, Preston Marx, Wendy Wolfson, Garry Balsamo, Claudia Herrera

Background

Chagas disease is a neglected zoonosis of growing concern in the southern US, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. We genotyped parasites in a large cohort of PCR positive dogs to shed light on parasite transmission cycles and assess potential relationships between parasite diversity and serological test performance.

Methodology/principal findings

We used a metabarcoding approach based on deep sequencing of T. cruzi mini-exon marker to assess parasite diversity. Phylogenetic analysis of 178 sequences from 39 dogs confirmed the presence of T. cruzi discrete typing unit (DTU) TcI and TcIV, as well as TcII, TcV and TcVI for the first time in US dogs. Infections with multiple DTUs occurred in 38% of the dogs. These data indicate a greater genetic diversity of T. cruzi than previously detected in the US. Comparison of T. cruzi sequence diversity indicated that highly similar T. cruzi strains from these DTUs circulate in hosts and vectors in Louisiana, indicating that they are involved in a shared T. cruzi parasite transmission cycle. However, TcIV and TcV were sampled more frequently in vectors, while TcII and TcVI were sampled more frequently in dogs.

Conclusions/significance

These observations point to ecological host-fitting being a dominant mechanism involved in the diversification of T. cruzi-host associations. Dogs with negative, discordant or confirmed positive T. cruzi serology harbored TcI parasites with different mini-exon sequences, which strongly supports the hypothesis that parasite genetic diversity is a key factor affecting serological test performance. Thus, the identification of conserved parasite antigens should be a high priority for the improvement of current serological tests.

Delimiting cryptic morphological variation among human malaria vector species using convolutional neural networks

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 17 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Jannelle Couret, Danilo C. Moreira, Davin Bernier, Aria Mia Loberti, Ellen M. Dotson, Marco Alvarez

Deep learning is a powerful approach for distinguishing classes of images, and there is a growing interest in applying these methods to delimit species, particularly in the identification of mosquito vectors. Visual identification of mosquito species is the foundation of mosquito-borne disease surveillance and management, but can be hindered by cryptic morphological variation in mosquito vector species complexes such as the malaria-transmitting Anopheles gambiae complex. We sought to apply Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) to images of mosquitoes as a proof-of-concept to determine the feasibility of automatic classification of mosquito sex, genus, species, and strains using whole-body, 2D images of mosquitoes. We introduce a library of 1, 709 images of adult mosquitoes collected from 16 colonies of mosquito vector species and strains originating from five geographic regions, with 4 cryptic species not readily distinguishable morphologically even by trained medical entomologists. We present a methodology for image processing, data augmentation, and training and validation of a CNN. Our best CNN configuration achieved high prediction accuracies of 96.96% for species identification and 98.48% for sex. Our results demonstrate that CNNs can delimit species with cryptic morphological variation, 2 strains of a single species, and specimens from a single colony stored using two different methods. We present visualizations of the CNN feature space and predictions for interpretation of our results, and we further discuss applications of our findings for future applications in malaria mosquito surveillance.

Zika and dengue but not chikungunya are associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome in Mexico: A case-control study

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 17 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Israel Grijalva, Concepción Grajales-Muñiz, César González-Bonilla, Victor Hugo Borja-Aburto, Martín Paredes-Cruz, José Guerrero-Cantera, Joaquín González-Ibarra, Alfonso Vallejos-Parás, Teresita Rojas-Mendoza, Clara Esperanza Santacruz-Tinoco, Porfirio Hernández-Bautista, Lumumba Arriaga-Nieto, Ma Guadalupe Garza-Sagástegui, Ignacio Vargas-Ramos, Ana Sepúlveda-Núñez, Omar Israel Campos-Villarreal, Roberto Corrales-Pérez, Mallela Azuara-Castillo, Elsa Sierra-González, José Alfonso Meza-Medina, Bernardo Martínez-Miguel, Gabriela López-Becerril, Jessica Ramos-Orozco, Tomás Muñoz-Guerrero, María Soledad Gutiérrez-Lozano, Arlette Areli Cervantes-Ocampo

Background

Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses (ZIKV, CHIKV and DENV) are temporally associated with neurological diseases, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Because these three arboviruses coexist in Mexico, the frequency and severity of GBS could theoretically increase. This study aims to determine the association between these arboviruses and GBS in a Mexican population and to establish the clinical characteristics of the patients, including the severity of the infection.A case-control study was conducted (2016/07/01-2018/06/30) in Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (Mexican Social Security Institute) hospitals, using serum and urine samples that were collected to determine exposure to ZIKV, DENV, CHIKV by RT-qPCR and serology (IgM). For the categorical variables analysis, Pearson’s χ2 or Fisher exact tests were used, and the Mann-Whitney U test for continuous variables. To determine the association of GBS and viral infection diagnosis through laboratory and symptomatology before admission, we calculated the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) using a 2x2 contingency table. A p-value ≤ 0.05 was considered as significant. Ninety-seven GBS cases and 184 controls were included. The association of GBS with ZIKV acute infection (OR, 8.04; 95% CI, 0.89–73.01, p = 0.047), as well as laboratory evidence of ZIKV infection (OR, 16.45; 95% CI, 2.03–133.56; p = 0.001) or Flavivirus (ZIKV and DENV) infection (OR, 6.35; 95% CI, 1.99–20.28; p = 0.001) was observed. Cases of GBS associated with ZIKV demonstrated a greater impairment of functional status and a higher percentage of mechanical ventilation. According to laboratory results, an association between ZIKV or ZIKV and DENV infection in patients with GBS was found. Cases of GBS associated with ZIKV exhibited a more severe clinical picture. Cases with co-infection were not found.

Presence of the knockdown resistance (<i>kdr</i>) mutations in the head lice (<i>Pediculus humanus capitis</i>) collected from primary school children of Thailand

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 16 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Narisa Brownell, Sakone Sunantaraporn, Kobpat Phadungsaksawasdi, Nirin Seatamanoch, Switt Kongdachalert, Atchara Phumee, Padet Siriyasatien

Human head lice are blood-sucking insects causing an infestation in humans called pediculosis capitis. The infestation is more prevalent in the school-aged population. Scalp itching, a common presenting symptom, results in scratching and sleep disturbance. The condition can lead to social stigmatization which can lead to loss of self-esteem. Currently, the mainstay of treatment for pediculosis is chemical insecticides such as permethrin. The extended use of permethrin worldwide leads to growing pediculicide resistance. The aim of this study is to demonstrate the presence of the knockdown resistance (kdr) mutation in head lice populations from six different localities of Thailand. A total of 260 head lice samples in this study were collected from 15 provinces in the 6 regions of Thailand. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify the α subunit of voltage-sensitive sodium channel (VSSC) gene, kdr mutation (C→T substitution). Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns and sequencing were used to identify the kdr T917I mutation and demonstrated three genotypic forms including homozygous susceptible (SS), heterozygous genotype (RS), and homozygous resistant (RR). Of 260 samples from this study, 156 (60.00%) were SS, 58 (22.31%) were RS, and 46 (17.69%) were RR. The overall frequency of the kdr T917I mutation was 0.31. Genotypes frequencies determination using the exact test of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium found that northern, central, northeastern, southern, and western region of Thailand differed from expectation. The five aforementioned localities had positive inbreeding coefficient value (Fis > 0) which indicated an excess of homozygotes. The nucleotide and amino acid sequences of RS and RR showed T917I and L920F point mutations. In conclusion, this is the first study detecting permethrin resistance among human head lice from Thailand. PCR-RFLP is an easy technique to demonstrate the kdr mutation in head louse. The data obtained from this study would increase awareness of increasing of the kdr mutation in head louse in Thailand.

Multi-locus genotyping reveals established endemicity of a geographically distinct <i>Plasmodium vivax</i> population in Mauritania, West Africa

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 16 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Hampate Ba, Sarah Auburn, Christopher G. Jacob, Sonia Goncalves, Craig W. Duffy, Lindsay B. Stewart, Ric N. Price, Yacine Boubou Deh, Mamadou Yero Diallo, Abderahmane Tandia, Dominic P. Kwiatkowski, David J. Conway

Background

Plasmodium vivax has been recently discovered as a significant cause of malaria in Mauritania, although very rare elsewhere in West Africa. It has not been known if this is a recently introduced or locally remnant parasite population, nor whether the genetic structure reflects epidemic or endemic transmission.

Methodology/Principal findings

To investigate the P. vivax population genetic structure in Mauritania and compare with populations previously analysed elsewhere, multi-locus genotyping was undertaken on 100 clinical isolates, using a genome-wide panel of 38 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), plus seven SNPs in drug resistance genes. The Mauritanian P. vivax population is shown to be genetically diverse and divergent from populations elsewhere, indicated consistently by genetic distance matrix analysis, principal components analyses, and fixation indices. Only one isolate had a genotype clearly indicating recent importation, from a southeast Asian source. There was no linkage disequilibrium in the local parasite population, and only a small number of infections appeared to be closely genetically related, indicating that there is ongoing genetic recombination consistent with endemic transmission. The P. vivax diversity in a remote mining town was similar to that in the capital Nouakchott, with no indication of local substructure or of epidemic population structure. Drug resistance alleles were virtually absent in Mauritania, in contrast with P. vivax in other areas of the world.

Conclusions/Significance

The molecular epidemiology indicates that there is long-standing endemic transmission that will be very challenging to eliminate. The virtual absence of drug resistance alleles suggests that most infections have been untreated, and that this endemic infection has been more neglected in comparison to P. vivax elsewhere.

Prevalence, risk factors and health consequences of soil-transmitted helminth infection on the Bijagos Islands, Guinea Bissau: A community-wide cross-sectional study

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 16 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Olivia Farrant, Tegwen Marlais, Joanna Houghton, Adriana Goncalves, Eunice Teixeira da Silva Cassama, Marito Gomes Cabral, Jose Nakutum, Cristovao Manjuba, Amabelia Rodrigues, David Mabey, Robin Bailey, Anna Last

Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) are endemic and widespread across Sub-Saharan Africa. A community wide soil-transmitted helminth (STH) prevalence survey was performed on the island of Bubaque in Guinea-Bissau using both Kato-katz microscopy and qPCR methodology. Predictors of infection and morbidity indicators were identified using multivariable logistic regression, and diagnostic methods were compared using k statistics. Among 396 participants, prevalence of STH by microscopy was 23.2%, hookworm was the only species identified by this method and the mean infection intensity was 312 eggs per gram. qPCR analysis revealed an overall prevalence of any STH infection of 47.3%, with the majority A. duodenale (32.3%), followed by N. americanus (15.01%) and S. stercoralis (13.2%). A. lumbricoides, and T. trichiura infections were negligible, with a prevalence of 0.25% each. Agreement between diagnostic tests was k = 0.22, interpreted as fair agreement, and infection intensity measured by both methods was only minimally correlated (Rs = -0.03). STH infection overall was more common in females and adults aged 31–40. STH infection was associated with open defaecation, low socio-economic status and further distance to a water-source. The prevalence of anaemia (defined as a binary outcome by the WHO standards for age and sex) was 69.1%, and 44.2% of children were malnourished according to WHO child growth standards. Hookworm infection intensity by faecal egg count showed no statistically significant association with age (Rs 0.06) but S. Stercoralis infection intensity by qPCR cycle threshold was higher in pre-school aged children (Rs = 0.30, p-value 0.03) There was no statistically significant association between STH infection and anaemia (OR 1.0 p = 0.8), stunting (OR 1.9, p-value 0.5) and wasting (OR 2.0, p-value 0.2) in children. This study reveals a persistent reservoir of STH infection across the community, with high rates of anaemia and malnutrition, despite high-coverage of mebendazole mass-drug administration in pre-school children. This reflects the need for a new strategy to soil-transmitted helminth control, to reduce infections and ultimately eliminate transmission.

Hepatitis C (HCV) therapy for HCV mono-infected and HIV-HCV co-infected individuals living in Nepal

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 16 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Sudhamshu KC, Holly Murphy, Sameer Dixit, Apurva Rai, Bickram Pradhan, Marie Lagrange-Xelot, Niyanta Karki, Amélie Dureault, Ujjwal Karmacharya, Santosh Panthi, Nabin Tulachan, Prawchan KC, Anjay KC, Rajesh Rajbhandari, Andrew B. Trotter, Jörg Gölz, Pierre Pradat, Christian Trépo, Philippe Creac'H

Background

Despite direct-acting antivirals (DAA), aims to “eradicate” viral hepatitis by 2030 remain unlikely. In Nepal, an expert consortium was established to treat HCV through Nepal earthquakes aftermath offering a model for HCV treatment expansion in a resource-poor setting.

Methodology/Principal findings

In 2015, we established a network of hepatologists, laboratory experts, and community-based leaders at 6 Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) sites from 4 cities in Nepal screening 838 patients for a treatment cohort of 600 individuals with HCV infection and past or current drug use. During phase 1, patients were treated with interferon-based regimens (n = 46). During phase 2, 135 patients with optimal predictors (HIV controlled, without cirrhosis, low baseline HCV viral load) were treated with DAA-based regimens. During phase 3, IFN-free DAA treatment was expanded, regardless of HCV disease severity, HIV viremia or drug use. Sustained virologic response (SVR) was assessed at 12 weeks.Median age was 37 years and 95.5% were males. HCV genotype was 3 (53.2%) or 1a (40.7%) and 32% had cirrhosis; 42.5% were HIV-HCV coinfected. The ITT SVR rates in phase 2 and 3 were 97% and 81%, respectively. The overall per-protocol and ITT SVR rates were 97% and 85%, respectively. By multivariable analysis, treatment at the Kathmandu site was protective and substance use, treatment during phase 3 were associated with failure to achieve SVR.

Conclusions/Significance

Very high SVR rates may be achieved in a difficult-to-treat, low-income population whatever the patient’s profile and disease severity. The excellent treatment outcomes observed in this real-life community study should prompt further HCV treatment initiatives in Nepal.

The development of a novel diagnostic PCR for <i>Madurella mycetomatis</i> using a comparative genome approach

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 16 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Wilson Lim, Emmanuel Siddig, Kimberly Eadie, Bertrand Nyuykonge, Sarah Ahmed, Ahmed Fahal, Annelies Verbon, Sandra Smit, Wendy WJ van de Sande

Background

Eumycetoma is a neglected tropical disease most commonly caused by the fungus Madurella mycetomatis. Identification of eumycetoma causative agents can only be reliably performed by molecular identification, most commonly by species-specific PCR. The current M. mycetomatis specific PCR primers were recently discovered to cross-react with Madurella pseudomycetomatis. Here, we used a comparative genome approach to develop a new M. mycetomatis specific PCR for species identification.

Methodology

Predicted-protein coding sequences unique to M. mycetomatis were first identified in BLASTCLUST based on E-value, size and presence of orthologues. Primers were then developed for 16 unique sequences and evaluated against 60 M. mycetomatis isolates and other eumycetoma causing agents including the Madurella sibling species. Out of the 16, only one was found to be specific to M. mycetomatis.

Conclusion

We have discovered a predicted-protein coding sequence unique to M. mycetomatis and have developed a new species-specific PCR to be used as a novel diagnostic marker for M. mycetomatis.

Potential risk factors associated with seropositivity for <i>Toxoplasma gondii</i> among pregnant women and HIV infected individuals in Ethiopia: A systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 15 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Zewdu Seyoum Tarekegn, Haileyesus Dejene, Agerie Addisu, Shimelis Dagnachew

Background

Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular and neurotropic apicomplexan protozoan parasite infecting almost all warm-blooded vertebrates including humans. To date in Ethiopia, no systematic study has been investigated on the overall effects of potential risk factors associated with seropositivity for Toxoplasma gondii among pregnant women and HIV infected individuals. We intended to determine the potential risk factors (PRFs) associated with seropositivity for Toxoplasma gondii from published data among pregnant women and HIV infected individuals of Ethiopia.

Methodology

An systematic review of the previous reports was made. We searched PubMed, Science Direct, African Journals Online, and Google Scholar for studies with no restriction on the year of publication. All references were screened independently in duplicate and were included if they presented data on at least two risk factors. Meta-analysis using the random or fixed-effects model was made to calculate the overall effects for each exposure.

Results

Of the 216 records identified, twenty-four reports met our eligibility criteria, with a total of 6003 individuals (4356 pregnant women and 1647 HIV infected individuals). The pooled prevalences of anti-Toxoplasma gondii antibodies were found at 72.5% (95% CI: 58.7% - 83.1%) in pregnant women and 85.7% (95% CI: 76.3% - 91.8%) in HIV infected individuals. A significant overall effect of anti-Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity among pregnant women (p < 0.05) was witnessed with age, abortion history, contact with cats, cat ownership, having knowledge about toxoplasmosis, being a housewife and having unsafe water source. Age, cat ownership, and raw meat consumption were also shown a significant effect (p < 0.05) to anti-Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity among HIV infected individuals.

Conclusions

This review showed gaps and drawbacks in the earlier studies that are useful to keep in mind to design accurate investigations in the future. The pooled prevalence of anti-Toxoplasma gondii antibodies was found to be higher among pregnant women and HIV infected individuals. This suggests that thousands of immunocompromised individuals (pregnant women and HIV infected patients) are at risk of toxoplasmosis due to the sociocultural and living standards of the communities of Ethiopia. Appropriate preventive measures are needed to reduce the exposure to Toxoplasma gondii infection. Further studies to investigate important risk factors are recommended to support the development of more cost-effective preventive strategies.

Experimental Lagos bat virus infection in straw-colored fruit bats: A suitable model for bat rabies in a natural reservoir species

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 15 December 2020 - 2:00pm

by Lineke Begeman, Richard Suu-Ire, Ashley C. Banyard, Christian Drosten, Elisa Eggerbauer, Conrad M. Freuling, Louise Gibson, Hooman Goharriz, Daniel L. Horton, Daisy Jennings, Denise A. Marston, Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Silke Riesle Sbarbaro, David Selden, Emma L. Wise, Thijs Kuiken, Anthony R. Fooks, Thomas Müller, James L. N. Wood, Andrew A. Cunningham

Rabies is a fatal neurologic disease caused by lyssavirus infection. Bats are important natural reservoir hosts of various lyssaviruses that can be transmitted to people. The epidemiology and pathogenesis of rabies in bats are poorly understood, making it difficult to prevent zoonotic transmission. To further our understanding of lyssavirus pathogenesis in a natural bat host, an experimental model using straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) and Lagos bat virus, an endemic lyssavirus in this species, was developed. To determine the lowest viral dose resulting in 100% productive infection, bats in five groups (four bats per group) were inoculated intramuscularly with one of five doses, ranging from 100.1 to 104.1 median tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50). More bats died due to the development of rabies after the middle dose (102.1 TCID50, 4/4 bats) than after lower (101.1, 2/4; 101.1, 2/4) or higher (103.1, 2/4; 104.1, 2/4) doses of virus. In the two highest dose groups, 4/8 bats developed rabies. Of those bats that remained healthy 3/4 bats seroconverted, suggesting that high antigen loads can trigger a strong immune response that abrogates a productive infection. In contrast, in the two lowest dose groups, 3/8 bats developed rabies, 1/8 remained healthy and seroconverted and 4/8 bats remained healthy and did not seroconvert, suggesting these doses are too low to reliably induce infection. The main lesion in all clinically affected bats was meningoencephalitis associated with lyssavirus-positive neurons. Lyssavirus antigen was detected in tongue epithelium (5/11 infected bats) rather than in salivary gland epithelium (0/11), suggesting viral excretion via the tongue. Thus, intramuscular inoculation of 102.1 TCID50 of Lagos bat virus into straw-colored fruit bats is a suitable model for lyssavirus associated bat rabies in a natural reservoir host, and can help with the investigation of lyssavirus infection dynamics in bats.

Population genomics of <i>Plasmodium vivax</i> in Panama to assess the risk of case importation on malaria elimination

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 14 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Lucas E. Buyon, Ana Maria Santamaria, Angela M. Early, Mario Quijada, Itza Barahona, Jose Lasso, Mario Avila, Sarah K. Volkman, Matthias Marti, Daniel E. Neafsey, Nicanor Obaldia III

Malaria incidence in Panama has plateaued in recent years in spite of elimination efforts, with almost all cases caused by Plasmodium vivax. Notwithstanding, overall malaria prevalence remains low (fewer than 1 case per 1000 persons). We used selective whole genome amplification to sequence 59 P. vivax samples from Panama. The P. vivax samples were collected from two periods (2007–2009 and 2017–2019) to study the population structure and transmission dynamics of the parasite. Imported cases resulting from increased levels of human migration could threaten malaria elimination prospects, and four of the samples evaluated came from individuals with travel history. We explored patterns of recent common ancestry among the samples and observed that a highly genetically related lineage (termed CL1) was dominant among the samples (47 out of 59 samples with good sequencing coverage), spanning the entire period of the collection (2007–2019) and all regions of the country. We also found a second, smaller clonal lineage (termed CL2) of four parasites collected between 2017 and 2019. To explore the regional context of Panamanian P. vivax we conducted principal components analysis and constructed a neighbor-joining tree using these samples and samples collected worldwide from a previous study. Three of the four samples with travel history clustered with samples collected from their suspected country of origin (consistent with importation), while one appears to have been a result of local transmission. The small number of Panamanian P. vivax samples not belonging to either CL1 or CL2 clustered with samples collected from Colombia, suggesting they represent the genetically similar ancestral P. vivax population in Panama or were recently imported from Colombia. The low diversity we observe in Panama indicates that this parasite population has been previously subject to a severe bottleneck and may be eligible for elimination. Additionally, while we confirmed that P. vivax is imported to Panama from diverse geographic locations, the lack of impact from imported cases on the overall parasite population genomic profile suggests that onward transmission from such cases is limited and that imported cases may not presently pose a major barrier to elimination.

Genetic and toxinological divergence among populations of <i>Tityus trivittatus</i> Kraepelin, 1898 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) inhabiting Paraguay and Argentina

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 14 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Adolfo Borges, Antonieta Rojas de Arias, Sabrina de Almeida Lima, Bruno Lomonte, Cecilia Díaz, Carlos Chávez-Olórtegui, Matthew R. Graham, Evanguedes Kalapothakis, Cathia Coronel, Adolfo R. de Roodt

Envenoming by scorpions in genus Tityus is a public health problem in Tropical America. One of the most medically significant species is Tityus trivittatus, which is known to occur from southwest Brazil to central-northern and eastern Argentina. In this work, we studied the lethality, composition, antigenicity, and enzymatic activity of venom from a T. trivittatus population found further north in urban areas of eastern Paraguay, where it has caused serious envenomation of children. Our results indicate that the population is of medical importance as it produces a potently toxic venom with an LD50 around 1.19 mg/kg. Venom neutralization in preliminary mouse bioassays was complete when using Brazilian anti-T. serrulatus antivenom but only partial when using Argentinean anti-T. trivittatus antivenom. Venom competitive solid-phase enzyme immunoassays and immunoblotting from Argentinean and Paraguayan T. trivittatus populations indicated that antigenic differences exist across the species range. SDS-PAGE showed variations in type and relative amounts of venom proteins between T. trivitattus samples from Argentina and Paraguay. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry indicated that while some sodium channel toxins are shared, including β-toxin Tt1g, others are population-specific. Proteolytic activity by zymography and peptide identification through nESI-MS/MS also point out that population-specific proteases may exist in T. trivitattus, which are postulated to be involved in the envenoming process. A time-calibrated molecular phylogeny of mitochondrial COI sequences revealed a significant (8.14%) genetic differentiation between the Argentinean and Paraguayan populations, which appeared to have diverged between the mid Miocene and early Pliocene. Altogether, toxinological and genetic evidence indicate that T. trivitattus populations from Paraguay and Argentina correspond to distinct, unique cryptic species, and suggest that further venom and taxonomic diversity exists in synanthropic southern South American Tityus than previously thought.

Effect of repeated epilation for minor trachomatous trichiasis on lash burden, phenotype and surgical management willingness: A cohort study

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 14 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Esmael Habtamu, Tariku Wondie, Wubshet Gobezie, Zerihun Tadesse, Bizuayehu Gashaw, Abebaw Gebeyehu, Chrissy h. Roberts, E. Kelly Callahan, David Macleod, Matthew J. Burton

Background

WHO endorsed the use of epilation as an alternative treatment to surgery for the management of both minor unoperated TT (UTT) and postoperative TT (PTT). However, some trachoma control programmes hesitated to implement epilation citing concerns that it would hamper TT surgical acceptance and result in larger numbers of and stiffer trichiatic eyelashes than the original TT lashes. We investigated the burden and phenotypes of post-epilation trichiatic eyelashes, and willingness to accept surgical management separately in unoperated and postoperative TT cases.

Methodology/Principal findings

We recruited cases with minor (≤5 eyelashes from the upper eyelid touching the eye or evidence of epilation in <1/3rd of the upper eyelid) UTT (170) and PTT (169) from community-based screenings in Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Participants eyes were examined and data on present and future willingness to accept surgical management collected at baseline and every month for 6-months. Eyelashes touching the eye were counted and their phenotypes documented. Participants were trained on how to epilate. Epilation was done by the participants at home and by the examiner during follow-ups when requested by the participant. Follow-up rates were ≥97%. There was evidence of a significant reduction in the burden of trichiatic eyelashes in unoperated (mean difference = -0.90 [-1.11– -0.69]; RR = 0.50 [95% CI, 0.40–0.62]; p<0.0001), and postoperative (mean difference = -1.16 [-1.36– -0.95]; RR = 0.38 [95% CI, 0.31–0.48]; p<0.0001) cases 6-month after frequent epilation. Post-epilation trichiatic eyelashes at 6-months had higher odds of being thin (40.2% vs 55.8%, OR = 1.88 [95% CI, 1.21–2.93]; p = 0.0048), weak (39.8% vs 70.8%, OR = 3.68 [95%CI,2.30–5.88]; p<0.0001), and half-length (30.9% vs 43.3%, OR = 1.71 [1.09–2.68]; p = 0.020) than the pre-epilation trichiatic eyelashes in unoperated cases. There was a significant increase in the proportion of weak trichiatic eyelashes (OR = 1.99 [95% CI, 1.03–3.83; p = 0.039) in postoperative cases. In all 6 follow-up time points, 120/164 (73.2%) of unoperated and 134/163 (82.2%) of postoperative cases indicated that they would accept surgery if their trichiasis progressed.

Conclusions/Significance

In this study setting, frequent epilation neither hampers surgical acceptance nor results in more damaging trichiatic eyelashes than the pre-epilation lashes; and can be used as an alternative to the programmatic management of minor unoperated and postoperative TT cases.

<i>Schistosoma haematobium</i> infection is associated with alterations in energy and purine-related metabolism in preschool-aged children

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 14 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Derick N. M. Osakunor, Takafira Mduluza, Douglas Osei-Hyiaman, Karl Burgess, Mark E. J. Woolhouse, Francisca Mutapi

Helminths are parasitic worms that infect over a billion people worldwide. The pathological consequences from infection are due in part, to parasite-induced changes in host metabolic pathways. Here, we analyse the changes in host metabolic profiles, in response to the first Schistosoma haematobium infection and treatment in Zimbabwean children. A cohort of 83 schistosome-negative children (2–5 years old) as determined by parasitological examination, guardian interviews and examination of medical records, was recruited at baseline. Children were followed up after three months for parasitological diagnosis of their first S. haematobium infection, by detection of parasite eggs excreted in urine. Children positive for infection were treated with the antihelminthic drug praziquantel, and treatment efficacy checked three months after treatment. Blood samples were taken at each time point, and capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry in conjunction with multivariate analysis were used to compare the change in serum metabolite profiles in schistosome-infected versus uninfected children. Following baseline at the three-month follow up, 11 children had become infected with S. haematobium (incidence = 13.3%). Our results showed that infection with S. haematobium was associated with significant increases (>2-fold) in discriminatory metabolites, linked primarily with energy (G6P, 3-PG, AMP, ADP) and purine (AMP, ADP) metabolism. These observed changes were commensurate with schistosome infection intensity, and levels of the affected metabolites were reduced following treatment, albeit not significantly. This study demonstrates that early infection with S. haematobium is associated with alterations in host energy and purine metabolism. Taken together, these changes are consistent with parasite-related clinical manifestations of malnutrition, poor growth and poor physical and cognitive performance observed in schistosome-infected children.

Cost of a new method of active screening for human African trypanosomiasis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 14 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Rian Snijders, Alain Fukinsia, Yves Claeys, Alain Mpanya, Epco Hasker, Filip Meheus, Erick Miaka, Marleen Boelaert

Background

Human African trypanosomiases caused by the Trypanosoma brucei gambiense parasite is a lethal disease targeted for eradication. One of the main disease control strategies is active case-finding through outreach campaigns. In 2014, a new method for active screening was developed with mini, motorcycle-based, teams. This study compares the cost of two active case-finding approaches, namely the traditional mobile teams and mini mobile teams, in the two health districts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Methods

The financial and economic costs of both approaches were estimated from a health care provider perspective. Cost and operational data were collected for 12 months for 1 traditional team and 3 mini teams. The cost per person screened and diagnosed was calculated and univariate sensitivity analysis was conducted to identify the main cost drivers.

Results

During the study period in total 264,630 people were screened, and 23 HAT cases detected. The cost per person screened was lower for a mini team than for a traditional team in the study setting (US$1.86 versus US$2.08). A comparable result was found in a scenario analysis, assuming both teams would operate in a similar setting, with the cost per person screened by a mini team 15% lower than the cost per person screened by a traditional team (1.86 $ vs 2.14$). The main explanations for this lower cost are that mini teams work with fewer human resources, cheaper means of transportation and do not perform the Capillary Tube Centrifugation test or card agglutination test dilutions.

Discussion

Active HAT screening with mini mobile teams has a lower cost and could be a cost-effective alternative for active case-finding. Further research is needed to determine if mini mobile teams have similar or better yields than traditional mobile teams in terms of detections and cases successfully treated.

Leprosy in a prison population: A new active search strategy and a prospective clinical analysis

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 10 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Fred Bernardes Filho, Jaci Maria Santana, Regina Coeli Palma de Almeida, Glauber Voltan, Natália Aparecida de Paula, Marcel Nani Leite, Claudia Maria Lincoln Silva, Camila Tormena, Lean Basoli, Joelma Menezes, Moises Batista da Silva, John Stewart Spencer, Wilson Marques Jr, Norma Tiraboschi Foss, Marco Andrey Cipriani Frade

Background

This study evaluates an active search strategy for leprosy diagnosis based on responses to a Leprosy Suspicion Questionnaire (LSQ), and analyzing the clinical, immunoepidemiological and follow-up aspects for individuals living in a prison population.

Methods

A cross-sectional study based on a questionnaire posing 14 questions about leprosy symptoms and signs that was distributed to 1,400 prisoners. This was followed by dermatoneurological examination, anti-PGL-I serology and RLEP-PCR. Those without leprosy were placed in the Non-leprosy Group (NLG, n = 1,216) and those diagnosed with clinical symptoms of leprosy were placed in the Leprosy Group (LG, n = 34).

Findings

In total, 896 LSQ were returned (64%), and 187 (20.9%) of the responses were deemed as positive for signs/symptoms, answering 2.7 questions on average. Clinically, 1,250 (89.3%) of the prisoners were evaluated resulting in the diagnosis of 34 new cases (LG), based on well-accepted clinical signs and symptoms, a new case detection rate of 2.7% within this population, while the NLG were comprised of 1,216 individuals. The confinement time medians were 39 months in the LG while it was 36 months in the NLG (p>0.05). The 31 leprosy cases who responded to the questionnaire (LSQ+) had an average of 1.5 responses. The symptoms “anesthetized skin area” and “pain in nerves” were most commonly mentioned in the LG while “tingling, numbness in the hands/feet”, “sensation of pricks and needles”, “pain in nerves” and “spots on the skin” responses were found in more than 30% of questionnaires in the NLG. Clinically, 88.2% had dysesthetic macular skin lesions and 97.1% presented some peripheral nerve impairment, 71.9% with some degree of disability. All cases were multibacillary, confirming a late diagnosis. Anti-PGL-I results in the LG were higher than in the NLG (p<0.0001), while the RLEP-PCR was positive in 11.8% of the patients.

Interpretation

Our findings within the penitentiary demonstrated a hidden prevalence of leprosy, although the individuals diagnosed were likely infected while living in their former communities and not as a result of exposure in the prison. The LSQ proved to be an important screening tool to help identify leprosy cases in prisons.

Alteration in the <i>Culex pipiens</i> transcriptome reveals diverse mechanisms of the mosquito immune system implicated upon Rift Valley fever phlebovirus exposure

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 10 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Ana I. Núñez, Anna Esteve-Codina, Jèssica Gómez-Garrido, Marco Brustolin, Sandra Talavera, Miguel Berdugo, Marc Dabad, Tyler Alioto, Albert Bensaid, Núria Busquets

Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) causes an emerging zoonotic disease and is mainly transmitted by Culex and Aedes mosquitoes. While Aedes aegypti-dengue virus (DENV) is the most studied model, less is known about the genes involved in infection-responses in other mosquito-arboviruses pairing. The main objective was to investigate the molecular responses of Cx. pipiens to RVFV exposure focusing mainly on genes implicated in innate immune responses. Mosquitoes were fed with blood spiked with RVFV. The fully-engorged females were pooled at 3 different time points: 2 hours post-exposure (hpe), 3- and 14-days post-exposure (dpe). Pools of mosquitoes fed with non-infected blood were also collected for comparisons. Total RNA from each mosquito pool was subjected to RNA-seq analysis and a de novo transcriptome was constructed. A total of 451 differentially expressed genes (DEG) were identified. Most of the transcriptomic alterations were found at an early infection stage after RVFV exposure. Forty-eight DEG related to immune infection-response were characterized. Most of them were related with the RNAi system, Toll and IMD pathways, ubiquitination pathway and apoptosis. Our findings provide for the first time a comprehensive view on Cx. pipiens-RVFV interactions at the molecular level. The early depletion of RNAi pathway genes at the onset of the RVFV infection would allow viral replication in mosquitoes. While genes from the Toll and IMD immune pathways were altered in response to RVFV none of the DEG were related to the JAK/STAT pathway. The fact that most of the DEG involved in the Ubiquitin-proteasome pathway (UPP) or apoptosis were found at an early stage of infection would suggest that apoptosis plays a regulatory role in infected Cx. pipiens midguts. This study provides a number of target genes that could be used to identify new molecular targets for vector control.

Seroprevalence and associated risk factors of Dengue fever in Kassala state, eastern Sudan

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 9 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Arwa Elaagip, Khider Alsedig, Omnia Altahir, Tellal Ageep, Ayman Ahmed, Hanaa Adli Siam, Abdallah M. Samy, Waleed Mohamed, Fatima Khalid, Suhaib Gumaa, Leonard Mboera, Calvin Sindato, Linzy Elton, Alimuddin Zumla, Najmul Haider, Richard Kock, Muzamil Mahdi Abdel Hamid

Dengue is a rapidly growing public health threat in Kassala state, eastern Sudan. The objective of this study was to determine the seroprevalence, entomological transmission indices, and socioeconomic risk factors associated with dengue in this region. A cross-sectional community-based study was conducted in four dengue-endemic sites; Khatmia, West Gash, Thoriba, and Shokriya between March 2016 to March 2017. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of immunoglobulin G (IgG) was used to determine the prevalence of dengue virus among the study participants. An entomological survey was conducted using pyrethrum spray catch and dipping for the collection of adults and aquatic stages of Aedes aegypti, respectively. Ribonucleic acid was extracted from the buffy coat of participants as well as from adult female Ae. aegypti to assess the possible circulation of dengue virus using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). Multiple logistic regression model was used to estimate the association between potential risk factors and dengue seropositivity. A total of 409 persons were recruited to the study: 45.5% were in the 20–39 years’ age category; 57.9% were living in houses with 6–10 persons; and 29.1% had at most secondary school education. In the majority (65.8%) of the households, the socioeconomic status was low (P<0.001). Long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets were used in 56.5% of the households. Over three-quarters (77.8%) claimed not to have experienced febrile illness in the last three months. Routine entomological survey across Kassala state identified a total of 3,304 larvae and 390 pupae Ae. aegypti, respectively. The overall house index was 32.8% and Breteau Index was 35.96% (146/406). The overall pupal demographic index was 13.31%, and the pupal children index was 97.26%. Antibodies against IgG were detected from 66 (42.04%) out of a total of 157 sera. Twenty-two positive sera (75.9%) were collected from Khatmia. A total of 329 adults Ae. aegypti were identified but only one (0.3%) was positive for DENV in Khatmia. Finally, four independent risk factors were identified to derive dengue circulation in Kassala: elder age (> 60 years) (OR 6.31, CI 1.09–36.36); type of bathroom (OR 3.52, CI 1.35–9.20); using water-based air conditioner (OR 6.90, CI 1.78–26.85) and previous infection of any household member with dengue (OR 28.73, CI 3.31–249.63). Our findings suggest that Kassala state is facing an increasing occurrence of dengue and emphasizes the need for developing appropriate interventions to address the identified risk factors, and place control programs into actions. Establishment of routine dengue epidemiological and entomological surveillance, and climate warning systems will contribute to early warning and timely detection and response to emerging outbreaks.

Hospital admissions for skin and soft tissue infections in a population with endemic scabies: A prospective study in Fiji, 2018–2019

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 9 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Li Jun Thean, Adam Jenney, Daniel Engelman, Lucia Romani, Handan Wand, Jyotishna Mudaliar, Jessica Paka, Tuliana Cua, Sera Taole, Aalisha Sahukhan, Mike Kama, Meciusela Tuicakau, Joseph Kado, Natalie Carvalho, Margot Whitfeld, John Kaldor, Andrew C. Steer

Scabies is an important predisposing factor for impetigo but its role in more serious skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) is not well understood. Information is limited on incidence of SSTIs in the presence of endemic scabies. We conducted a prospective study of hospital admissions for SSTIs in the Northern Division of Fiji (population: 131,914). Prospective surveillance for admissions with impetigo, abscess, cellulitis, wound infection, pyomyositis, necrotizing fasciitis, infected scabies, and crusted scabies was conducted at the Division’s referral hospital between 2018 to 2019. Information was collected on demographic characteristics, clinical features, microbiology, treatment and outcomes. Over the study period, 788 SSTI admissions were recorded corresponding to a population incidence 647 per 100,000 person-years (95%CI 571–660). Incidence was highest at the extremes of age with peak incidence in children aged <5 years (908 per 100,000) and those aged ≥65 years (1127 per 100,000). Incidence was 1.7 times higher among the Indigenous Fijian population (753 per 100,000) compared to other ethnicities (442 per 100,000). Overall case fatality rate was 3.3%, and 10.8% for those aged ≥65 years. Scabies was diagnosed concurrently in 7.6% of all patients and in 24.6% of admitted children <5 years. There is a very high burden of hospital admissions for SSTIs in Fiji compared to high-income settings especially among the youngest, oldest and indigenous population which is concordant with scabies and impetigo distribution in this population. Our findings highlight the need for strategies to reduce the burden of SSTIs in Fiji and similar settings.

Using host traits to predict reservoir host species of rabies virus

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 8 December 2020 - 10:00pm

by Katherine E. L. Worsley-Tonks, Luis E. Escobar, Roman Biek, Mariana Castaneda-Guzman, Meggan E. Craft, Daniel G. Streicker, Lauren A. White, Nicholas M. Fountain-Jones

Wildlife are important reservoirs for many pathogens, yet the role that different species play in pathogen maintenance frequently remains unknown. This is the case for rabies, a viral disease of mammals. While Carnivora (carnivores) and Chiroptera (bats) are the canonical mammalian orders known to be responsible for the maintenance and onward transmission of Rabies lyssavirus (RABV), the role of most species within these orders remains unknown and is continually changing as a result of contemporary host shifting. We combined a trait-based analytical approach with gradient boosting machine learning models (GBM models) to identify physiological and ecological host features associated with being a reservoir for RABV. We then used a cooperative game theory approach to determine species-specific traits associated with known RABV reservoirs. Being a carnivore reservoir for RABV was associated with phylogenetic similarity to known RABV reservoirs, along with other traits such as having larger litters and earlier sexual maturity. For bats, location in the Americas and geographic range were the most important predictors of RABV reservoir status, along with having a large litter. Our models identified 44 carnivore and 34 bat species that are currently not recognized as RABV reservoirs, but have trait profiles suggesting their capacity to be or become reservoirs. Further, our findings suggest that potential reservoir species among bats and carnivores occur both within and outside of areas with current rabies circulation. These results show the ability of a trait-based approach to detect potential reservoirs of infection and could inform rabies control programs and surveillance efforts by identifying the types of species and traits that facilitate RABV maintenance and transmission.

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