Species-specific primers discriminate schistosome intermediate hosts: unambiguous PCR diagnosis of Bulinus forskalii group taxa (Gastropoda: Planorbidae)


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The morphological definition of taxa has proved difficult within the Bulinus forskalii group, which includes intermediate hosts of medically important Schistosoma species in West Africa. Although B. forskalii and B. senegalensis transmit different schistosome species they are conchologically similar and their distributions overlap. Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) allows differentiation of sibling species in the genus Bulinus, but RAPDs are difficult to standardize, impairing their value as a taxonomic tool. Hence, RAPD products diagnostic for either B. senegalensis or B. forskalii from West Africa were cloned, sequenced and a panel of species-specific primers designed. Sequencing of RAPD products identified a homology in two apparently independent RAPD loci, a problem where RAPDs are indiscriminately scored for phylogenetic analyses. Specificity of primers was confirmed by widespread sampling throughout each species' range. This approach produced a simple, robust, unambiguous PCR-based species identification strategy for this difficult group.