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Infect Genet Evol. 2001 Jul;1(1):61-8.

The origin and evolution of the Leishmania donovani complex as inferred from a mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase II gene sequence.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. muntaser26@hotmail.com


Members of the Leishmania donovani complex are parasites of the reticulo-endothelial system that are often associated with serious epidemics of a life threatening disease known as visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar. Twenty-two Leishmania isolates representative of the geographical range of the parasite were analysed for sequence variations in their cytochrome oxidase II gene. In performing phylogenetic analysis, the maximum parsimonious, neighbour joining and maximum likelihood trees were congruent and produced a tree that differentiated between two clades conforming to the current classification of the species complex into two species: Leishmania donovani and Leishmania infantum. Furthermore, the molecular haplotypes were concordant, in general, with the isoenzyme data of the complex. The donovani isolates from the Sudan that possessed the most ancestral sequence were of a single haplotype that significantly resembled the sequence of Leishmania major. Our sequence data tallied with a general neutral model of sequence evolution with manifestations of weak selection. The data allowed an approximate dating of the origin of the complex to a period contemporary to or predating the spread of modern humans out of Africa.

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