Update on the distribution and phylogenetics of Biomphalaria (Gastropoda: Planorbidae) populations in Guangdong Province, China

Stephen W. Attwood*, Guan Nan Huo, Jianwen QIU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In 1973 planorbid snails then identified as Biomphalaria straminea were discovered in Hong Kong, China. It was assumed that these snails had been introduced to Hong Kong via the import of tropical fish by air from South America. In 2012 Biomphalaria were found for the first time in Guangdong Province, China. In view of the renewed interest in these invasive snails, a morphological and DNA-sequence based phylogenetic study was undertaken for seven populations of Biomphalaria snails collected in Guangdong. Morphologically and phylogenetically, five of the populations clustered more closely with Biomphalaria kuhniana than with B. straminea. Levels of genetic diversity among the populations were about half those of autochthonous populations in Brazil, the phylogenetic relationships did not correlate with a radiation from any one international port in China, and different lineages appeared associated with different ports. Consequently in explaining the current distribution of the snails, multiple colonization events, each establishing a new local snail population near to maritime international container ports, were considered more likely than the spread of snails from Hong Kong to China. The displacement of B. straminea by B. kuhniana in Guangdong is considered as an explanation for the habitat changes observed among the snails between Hong Kong in the 1980s and the present. The conclusions of the study are that any risk of Schistosoma mansoni transmission in China is more likely to come from parasite importation in the intramolluscan stage, than from transmission by migrant workers from South America or Africa. In addition, although likely to be rare, sporadic outbreaks of imported schistosomiasis (caused by invading infected snails) could be a threat to public health in the vicinity of International container ports (not only in Guangdong Province). Further work is called for to investigate further the presence of B. kuhniana and its potential interactions with B. straminea (the former is thought to be incompatible with S. mansoni), and the responses of Chinese Biomphalaria to potential competitors such as Thiaridae. The current expansion of container ports in Brazil and Venezuela, and the increase in trade with China, is likely to accentuate any current risk of imported schistosomiasis, and surveillance around ports in China, together with further research, are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-270
Number of pages13
JournalActa Tropica
Issue numberPart B
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary (miscellaneous)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases

User-Defined Keywords

  • Biomphalaria
  • China
  • Gastropoda
  • Invasive species
  • Phylogenetic
  • Schistosomiasis


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