Project title: TRojan snAILs, the role of gastropod snails in disease transmission revealed by state-of-the-art molecular techniques
Snail-borne diseases affect more than 300 million people worldwide and also lead to economic losses and mortality in livestock. Thus, it is very important to gather more information on snail distributions. However, there is a problem: our current techniques take up a lot of time and they are prone to missing information. In this project, we want to develop a technique that surmounts these shortcomings and allows us to identify snails and their parasites at the same time.
Snail-borne diseases mainly affect communities in developing countries, but due to globalization and climate change the prevalence and distribution of these diseases are changing. Because the distribution of ‘vector’ snail species determines where snail-borne diseases can occur, updated information on snail distribution and their role in parasite transmission is highly needed. Currently, however, acquiring these insights is hampered by the ambiguous taxonomic status of many involved gastropod species and a lack of associated ecological and parasitological data. Additionally, traditional techniques to identify snail infection are time-consuming and prone to missing very recent infections, while experimental work cannot account for confounding factors like co-infection and strain variability. Here we propose to surmount these difficulties by developing an efficient, sensitive and robust monitoring tool that will simultaneously allow to genotype snails and their associated parasites. After designing the tool, we will test its sensitivity on controlled cases of infected snails, and subsequently we will deploy it to study new and existing museum collections to unravel important ecological factors in the distribution and spreading of snail-borne diseases.