Genetic epidemiology of lymphatic filariasis in American Samoa after mass drug administration.

Hedtke SM, Zendejas-Heredia PA, Graves PM, Sheridan S, Sheel M, Fuimaono SD, Lau CL, Grant WN

Over 892 million people in 48 countries are at risk of infection by nematodes that cause lymphatic filariasis. As part of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, mass drug administration is distributed to communities until surveillance indicates infection rates are below target prevalence thresholds. In some countries, including American Samoa, lymphatic filariasis transmission persists despite years of mass drug administration and/or has resurged after cessation. Nothing is known about the population genetics of Wuchereria bancrofti worms in Polynesia, or whether local transmission is persisting and/or increasing due to inadequate mass drug administration coverage, expansion from residual hotspots, reintroduction from elsewhere, or a combination. We extracted DNA from microfilariae on blood slides collected during prevalence surveys in 2014 and 2016, comprising 31 pools of five microfilariae from 22 persons living in eight villages. We sequenced 1104 bp across three mitochondrial markers (ND4, COI, CYTB). We quantified parasite genetic differentiation using variant calls and estimated haplotypes using principal components analysis, F-statistics, and haplotype networks. Of the variants called, all but eight were shared across the main island of Tutuila, and three of those were from a previously described hotspot village, Fagali'i. Genotypic data did not support population genetic structure among regions or villages in 2016, although differences were observed between worms collected in Fagali'i in 2014 and those from 2016. Because estimated haplotype frequency varied between villages, these statistics suggested genetic differentiation, but were not consistent among villages. Finally, haplotype networks demonstrated American Samoan sequence clusters were related to previously published sequences from Papua New Guinea. These are, to our knowledge, the first reports of W. bancrofti genetic variation in Polynesia. The resurgent parasites circulating on the main island of American Samoa represent a single population. This study is the first step towards investigating how parasite population structure might inform strategies to manage resurgence and elimination of lymphatic filariasis.