Cytotaxonomic characterization and estimation of migration patterns of onchocerciasis vectors (Simulium damnosum sensu lato) in northwestern Ethiopia based on RADSeq data
BACKGROUND: While much progress has been made in the control and elimination of onchocerciasis across Africa, the extent to which vector migration might confound progress towards elimination or result in re-establishment of endemism in areas where transmission has been eliminated remains unclear. In Northern Ethiopia, Metema and Metekel-two foci located near the Sudan border-exhibit continuing transmission. While progress towards elimination has been faster in Metema, there remains a problematic hotspot of transmission. Whether migration from Metekel contributes to this is currently unknown. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: To assess the role of vector migration from Metekel into Metema, we present a population genomics study of 151 adult female vectors using 47,638 RADseq markers and mtDNA CoI sequencing. From additional cytotaxonomy data we identified a new cytoform in Metema, closely related to S. damnosum s.str, here called the Gondar form. RADseq data strongly indicate the existence of two distinctly differentiated clusters within S. damnosum s.l.: one genotypic cluster found only in Metema, and the second found predominantly in Metekel. Because blackflies from both clusters were found in sympatry (in all four collection sites in Metema), but hybrid genotypes were not detected, there may be reproductive barriers preventing interbreeding. The dominant genotype in Metema was not found in Metekel while the dominant genotype in Metekel was found in Metema, indicating that (at the time of sampling) migration is primarily unidirectional, with flies moving from Metekel to Metema. There was strong differentiation between clusters but little genetic differentiation within clusters, suggesting migration and gene flow of flies within the same genetic cluster are sufficient to prevent genetic divergence between sites. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results confirm that Metekel and Metema represent different transmission foci, but also indicate a northward movement of vectors between foci that may have epidemiological importance, although its significance requires further study.