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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2008;62:329-51. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.62.081307.162925.

Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii: clonal expansion driven by infrequent recombination and selective sweeps.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130, USA. sibley@wustl.edu


Toxoplasma gondii is among the most successful parasites. It is capable of infecting all warm-blooded animals and causing opportunistic disease in humans. T. gondii has a striking clonal population structure consisting of three predominant lineages in North America and Europe. Clonality is associated with the recent emergence of a monomorphic version of Chr1a, which drove a selective genetic sweep within the past 10,000 years. Strains from South America diverged from those in North America some 1-2 mya; recently, however, the monomorphic Chr1a has extended into regions of South America, where it is also associated with clonality. The recent spread of a few dominant lineages has dramatically shaped the population structure of T. gondii and has resulted in most lineages sharing a highly pathogenic nature. Understanding the factors that have shaped the population structure of T. gondii has implications for the emergence and transmission of human pathogens.

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