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Int J Parasitol. 2009 Jan;39(2):175-89. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2008.10.001. Epub 2008 Oct 21.

Molecular approaches to diversity of populations of apicomplexan parasites.

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  • 1Swiss Tropical Institute, Socinstrasse 57, CH 4002 Basel, Switzerland. hans-peter.beck@unibas.ch


Apicomplexan parasites include many parasites of importance either for livestock or as causative agents of human diseases. The importance of these parasites has been recognised by the European Commission and resulted in support of the COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action 857 'Apicomplexan Biology in the Post-Genomic Era'. In this review we discuss the current understanding in 'Biodiversity and Population Genetics' of the major apicomplexan parasites, namely the Eimeria spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Theileria spp. and Plasmodium spp. During the past decade molecular tools for characterizing and monitoring parasite populations have been firmly established as an integral part of field studies and intervention trials. Analyses have been conducted for most apicomplexan pathogens to describe the extent of genetic diversity, infection dynamics or population structure. The underlying key question for all parasites is to understand how genetic diversity influences epidemiology and pathogenicity and its implication in therapeutic and vaccination strategies as well as disease control. Similarities in the basic biology and disease or transmission patterns among this order of parasites promote multifaceted discussions and comparison of epidemiological approaches and methodological tools. This fosters mutual learning and has the potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas and technical approaches.

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