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Single nucleotide polymorphisms in β-tubulin selected in Onchocerca volvulus following repeated ivermectin treatment: Possible indication of resistance selection

Nana-Djeunga, Hugues, Bourguinat, Catherine, Pion, Sébastien D.S., Kamgno, Joseph, Gardon, Jacques, Njiokou, Flobert, Boussinesq, Michel, Prichard, Roger K.
Molecular and biochemical parasitology 2012 v.185 no.1 pp. 10-18
parasites, onchocerciasis, ivermectin, rivers, tubulin, blindness, disease control programs, heterozygosity, genes, parasitology, homozygosity, Onchocerca volvulus, adults, single nucleotide polymorphism
The control of onchocerciasis or river blindness by mass treatment of the population with ivermectin (IVM) has been a great success until now, so that in certain foci its elimination has become feasible. However, after more than 20 years of repeated IVM mass treatment, the disease still persists in many endemic countries. Sub-optimal responses and genetic changes have been reported in Onchocerca volvulus populations under high IVM pressure but more work is needed to determine whether resistance is developing. The situation needs to be urgently clarified to preserve the achievements of onchocerciasis control programs. In this study, O. volvulus adult worms were collected from the same individuals, before IVM exposure and following three years of annual or three-monthly treatments at 150μg/kg or 800μg/kg. Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) occurring in the β-tubulin gene of these parasites were investigated. We found changes in genotype frequencies in O. volvulus β-tubulin gene associated with IVM treatments. The SNP at position 1545 (A/G) showed a significant increase in frequency of the less common nucleotide in the female worms following treatment. After 13 three-monthly treatments, female worm homozygotes with the less common genotype, prior to treatment, increased in frequency. The selected homozygotes, as well as heterozygotes, appeared to be less fertile (without or with very few embryonic stages in their uteri) than the wild-type homozygotes. These results provide additional evidence for genetic selection and strengthen the warning that selection for IVM resistance may be occurring in some O. volvulus populations.