Human helminth co-infection: No evidence of common genetic control of hookworm and Schistosoma mansoni infection intensity in a Brazilian community
Strong statistical associations between soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomes are frequently observed in co-endemic human populations, although the underlying explanations remain poorly understood. This study investigates the contribution of host genetics and domestic environment to hookworm and Schistosoma mansoni infection intensity and evaluates the role of genetic and non-genetic factors in co-variation of infection intensity. Detailed genealogical information allowed assignment of 1303 individuals living in the Brazilian community of Americaninhas, Minas Gerais state, to 25 pedigrees (containing between two and 1159 members) residing in 303 households. The prevalence of co-infection with both hookworms and schistosomes was high (38.5%), with significant correlation between Necator americanus and S. mansoni faecal egg counts. Bivariate variance component analysis demonstrated a modest but significant species-specific heritability for intensity of N. americanus (h^2=0.196) and S. mansoni infection (h^2=0.230). However, after accounting for demographic, socio-economic and household risk factors, no evidence for common genetic control of intensity of hookworm and schistosome infection was observed. There was some evidence for residual clustering within households but the majority (63%) of the covariance between N. americanus and S. mansoni infection intensity remained specific to the individual and could not be explained by shared genes, shared environment or other shared demographic, socio-economic or environmental risk factors. Our results emphasize the importance of exposure to hookworm and schistosome infection in driving the association between levels of infection with these species in hosts resident in areas of high transmission and suggest that much of this common exposure occurs outside the home.
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