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Int J Parasitol. 1998 Jan;28(1):85-104.

Genetic epidemiology of parasitic protozoa and other infectious agents: the need for an integrated approach.

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  • 1Centre d'Etudes sur le Polymorphisme des Microorganismes, UMR CNRS/ORSTOM 9926, Montpellier, France.


This paper emphasises the relevance of the concepts and methods of evolutionary genetics for studying the epidemiology of parasitic protozoa and other pathogenic agents. Population genetics and phylogenetic analysis both contribute to identifying the relevant evolutionary and epidemiologically discrete units of research (Discrete typing units = DTUs), that can be equated to distinct phylogenetic lines. It is necessary (i) to establish that a given species represents a reliable DTU; (ii) to see whether a given species is further structured into lower DTUs that correspond to either clonal lineages or to cryptic species, and could exhibit distinct biomedical properties (virulence, resistance to drugs, etc). DTUs at the species and subspecies level can be conveniently identified by specific genetic markers or sets of genetic markers ("tags") for epidemiological follow-up. For any kind of pathogen (protozoa, fungi, bacteria, viruses), DTUs represent the relevant units of research, not only for epidemiology, but also, for other applied researches (clinical study, pathogenicity, vaccine and drug design, immunology, etc). The development of an "integrated genetic epidemiology of infectious diseases", that would explore the respective role of, and the interactions between, the genetic diversity (and its biological consequences) of the pathogen, the host and the vector (in the case of vector-borne diseases) is called for.

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