Distribution and habitats of the Bulinus africanus species group, snail intermediate hosts of Schistosoma haematobium and S. mattheei in South Africa
AbstractAs intermediate host of Schistosoma haematobium and S. mattheei, the Bulinus africanus group plays a major role in the transmission of urinary and bovine schistosomiasis, diseases that negatively affect the health status of millions of people and their livestock in South Africa. Bulinus spp. can also play a role in the transmission of cercarial dermatitis (swimmer's itch) caused by the immune reaction of incompatible hosts to the penetration of cercariae of non-human schistosomes. This can cause considerable discomfort to humans bathing in infested waters. This article focuses on the geographical distribution and habitats of this group as reflected by the samples taken from 2 930 collection sites on record in the database of the National Freshwater Snail Collection (NFSC) at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. The 414 different loci (1/16-degree squares) on record, reflect an extensive distribution from the western parts of the North- West to Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces and the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape Province. Details of each habitat as described by collectors during surveys, as well as altitude and mean annual temperature and rainfall of each locality, were processed and chi-square and effect size values were calculated. A decision tree constructed from all the available data indicated that temperature and altitude, followed by the type of water-body, seemed to be the more important factors that had a significant influence on the distribution of this group in South Africa. The role of the B. africanus group in the transmission of schistosome species is briefly discussed and the urgent need for co-ordinated surveys to update the geographical distribution of host snails, as well as the schistosome parasites in South Africa, is stressed.
Key words: geographical distribution, habitat preferences, epidemiology of schistosomiasis, Bulinus africanus, Bulinus globosus
Water SA Vol.31(1) 2005: 117-125