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Infect Genet Evol. 2013 Apr;15:18-24. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2012.08.017. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Extensive intra-host genetic diversity uncovered in Cryptosporidium parvum using Next Generation Sequencing.

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Massey University, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.


The theory about the Cryptosporidium life cycle predicts genetic diversity of sporozoites within the host. Nevertheless, the Cryptosporidium intra-host genetic diversity is difficult to study using conventional Sanger sequencing or electrophoretic resolution of amplicons, due to the methods' inability to resolve mixtures of templates. We analysed the within-isolate genetic diversity of two Cryptosporidium parvum isolates sharing common descent, by combining the use of Next Generation Sequencing and cloning of PCR amplicons with database searches. The analysis focused on the single-copy 70 kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) and the 60kDa surface glycoprotein (gp60) genes, which allowed any diversity to be ascribed to the presence of a heterogeneous population of sporozoites. The results indicated an unprecedented intra-host genetic diversity, with two HSP70 and 10 gp60 alleles in these isolates, in spite of the initial resolution of one allele per locus using Sanger sequencing. At both loci, the predominant alleles were those initially identified by Sanger sequencing. A significant (p<0.01) overrepresentation of gp60 alleles previously reported in New Zealand was observed. These results further our understanding of the genetic structure of C. parvum populations, and expose the limitations of the use of non-axenic isolates as operational taxonomic units of genetic studies of cryptosporidiosis.

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