Schistosome and Snail Resource (SSR); supporting global schistosomiasis research.

13 Oct 2020
Scanning electron microscope image of Schistosoma worm pair. Image credit Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Wellcome Trust Biomedical Resource Grant worth more than £1 million over five years has been awarded to Dr Bonnie Webster (NHM), Dr Aidan Emery (NHM) and Dr Amaya Bustinduy (LSHTM) to create a Schistosome and Snail Resource (SSR) to support global schistosomiasis research by maintaining live material, lifecycles and collections that are currently limited or that do not exist elsewhere.

Schistosomes, transmitted by fresh-water snails, infect >200 million people in low/middle income countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. While substantial advances have been made in the control of human schistosomiasis, the diversity and complexity of schistosomes and their specific fresh-water snail hosts warrants fundamental research requiring lifecycles, live material and diverse collections. Without the availability of Schistosoma lifecycles, future research faces substantial obstacles; currently very few labs are able to maintain the parasites and/or the snail hosts and current long-term cultures/collections lack the genetic heterogeneity observed in natural populations. The SSR will address these issues and advance research on schistosomiasis.

The SSR will provide access to:

  1. The “standard/model” Schistosoma and snail species;
  2. Key African Schistosoma species/strains;
  3. Cultures of diverse snail vectors, enhancing current research and capacity while enabling new research avenues.

"Our historical expertise in establishing and maintaining unique schistosome and snail isolates/collections from different endemic settings, together with our state-of-the art snail facility (NHM) and LSHTM rodent facility will facilitate the development of the resource."

The SSR will add considerable value by facilitating priority research needed to support schistosomiasis control and elimination.