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PLoS Pathog. 2019 Jan 23;15(1):e1007513. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007513. eCollection 2019 Jan.

Whole-genome sequence of the bovine blood fluke Schistosoma bovis supports interspecific hybridization with S. haematobium.

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The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Genetics & Computational Biology Department, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Faculty of Technology and Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec), Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia.
Immunology Department, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
UQ Centre for Clinical Research, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD, Australia.
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology (IRNASA, CSIC), Cordel de Merinas, Salamanca, Spain.
Natural History Museum, Life Sciences Department, Parasites and Vectors Division, Cromwell Road, London, United Kingdom.


Mesenteric infection by the parasitic blood fluke Schistosoma bovis is a common veterinary problem in Africa and the Middle East and occasionally in the Mediterranean Region. The species also has the ability to form interspecific hybrids with the human parasite S. haematobium with natural hybridisation observed in West Africa, presenting possible zoonotic transmission. Additionally, this exchange of alleles between species may dramatically influence disease dynamics and parasite evolution. We have generated a 374 Mb assembly of the S. bovis genome using Illumina and PacBio-based technologies. Despite infecting different hosts and organs, the genome sequences of S. bovis and S. haematobium appeared strikingly similar with 97% sequence identity. The two species share 98% of protein-coding genes, with an average sequence identity of 97.3% at the amino acid level. Genome comparison identified large continuous parts of the genome (up to several 100 kb) showing almost 100% sequence identity between S. bovis and S. haematobium. It is unlikely that this is a result of genome conservation and provides further evidence of natural interspecific hybridization between S. bovis and S. haematobium. Our results suggest that foreign DNA obtained by interspecific hybridization was maintained in the population through multiple meiosis cycles and that hybrids were sexually reproductive, producing viable offspring. The S. bovis genome assembly forms a highly valuable resource for studying schistosome evolution and exploring genetic regions that are associated with species-specific phenotypic traits.

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