Research Article: Genetic markers for the identification and characterization of Opisthorchis viverrini, a medically important food borne trematode in Southeast Asia

Date Published: December 1, 2006

Publisher: Elsevier

Author(s): Weerachai Saijuntha, Paiboon Sithithaworn, Sopit Wongkham, Thewarach Laha, Vichit Pipitgool, Trevor N Petney, Ross H Andrews.


The liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini, is one of the major food borne trematodes in Southeast Asia, where infection causes hepatobiliary disease and subsequent development of cholangiocarcinoma. In Thailand, O. viverrini is most prevalent in the northeast where there is marked regional variation in the rate of infection in humans at provincial, district and village levels. To date, the roles of genetic variation of O. viverrini on this observed variability in infection, transmission and associated disease are not known. We have applied multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MEE), specifically allozyme electrophoresis, to isolates of O. viverrini from Thailand and Laos to establish genetic markers to examine its systematics and population structure. Forty-six enzymes commonly found useful for genetic characterisation in parasitic helminths were screened, and of these, 33 enzymes gave sufficient staining and resolution to act as potential genetic markers. Sixteen enzymes were monomorphic and 17 enzymes were polymorphic in the pools of worms examined. Whether they are indicative of different enzyme loci, heterozygosity or unique genotypes within the pools of worms examined remains to be determined. Preliminary investigations examining five individual worms at enzyme loci where pools of worms showed multiple bands have confirmed the diagnostic value of the enzyme loci established as well as providing evidence of potential population sub structuring and heterozygosity. For the first time, we have established at least 17 enzymes that provide the basis to undertake comprehensive genetic analyses of the systematics and population structure of O. viverrini, a medically important food borne trematode in Southeast Asia.

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