Comparison of Four Species of Snails as Potential Decoys to Intercept Schistosome Miracidia

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  • Human Ecology Division, Center for Energy and Environment Research, Caparra Heights Station, Puerto Rico 00935

Preliminary studies have shown that various species of aquatic snails may be used as decoys or “sponges” to intercept schistosome miracidia, thereby preventing the miracidia from reaching the snails which normally serve as their intermediate host. In this study, four species of snails were evaluated as candidate decoys for field trials: Marisa cornuarietis, Pomacea australis, Helisoma caribaeum, and Tarebia granifera. In the laboratory all four species caused considerable reductions in the proportion of Biomphalaria glabrata infected by miracidia of Schistosoma mansoni. The most effective decoys were M. cornuarietis and H. caribaeum, both of which caused experimental infection levels of 90% to decrease to 25% when five decoy snails were present for each target snail. When ten decoy snails were present for each target snail, the proportion infected decreased to 1%. M. cornuarietis was chosen as the candidate for field trials because it was found more frequently in Puerto Rico than was H. caribaeum. Initial field trials in two ponds showed that M. cornuarietis blocked infections at a ratio of 6 decoys to 1 target snail, confirming the laboratory results. Further studies in flowing water are needed before the technique can be generally evaluated in an endemic area.