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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2006 Nov;30(6):853-71.

Pneumocystis oryctolagi sp. nov., an uncultured fungus causing pneumonia in rabbits at weaning: review of current knowledge, and description of a new taxon on genotypic, phylogenetic and phenotypic bases.

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ECOPA (EA 3609), Lille Pasteur Institute, Lille, France.


The genus Pneumocystis comprises noncultivable, highly diversified fungal pathogens dwelling in the lungs of mammals. The genus includes numerous host-species-specific species that are able to induce severe pneumonitis, especially in severely immunocompromised hosts. Pneumocystis organisms attach specifically to type-1 epithelial alveolar cells, showing a high level of subtle and efficient adaptation to the alveolar microenvironment. Pneumocystis species show little difference at the light microscopy level but DNA sequences of Pneumocystis from humans, other primates, rodents, rabbits, insectivores and other mammals present a host-species-related marked divergence. Consistently, selective infectivity could be proven by cross-infection experiments. Furthermore, phylogeny among primate Pneumocystis species was correlated with the phylogeny of their hosts. This observation suggested that cophylogeny could explain both the current distribution of pathogens in their hosts and the speciation. Thus, molecular, ultrastructural and biological differences among organisms from different mammals strengthen the view of multiple species existing within the genus Pneumocystis. The following species were subsequently described: Pneumocystis jirovecii in humans, Pneumocystis carinii and Pneumocystis wakefieldiae in rats, and Pneumocystis murina in mice. The present work focuses on Pneumocystis oryctolagi sp. nov. from Old-World rabbits. This new species has been described on the basis of both biological and phylogenetic species concepts.

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