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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1998 Sep;22(1-2):27-35.

Typing methods to approach Pneumocystis carinii genetic heterogeneity.

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Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Division Autonome de Médecine Préventive Hospitalière, Lausanne, Switzerland.


The study of the genetic heterogeneity of P. carinii is complicated by the lack of an in vitro culture system, as well as by the likely occurrence of co-infections with several special forms or types in a single host. Karyotyping and multilocus enzyme electrophoresis are useful for studies at the evolutionary level. However, these methods require a large number of cells, which prevents their use for the special form infecting humans. DNA sequence analysis of genomic regions is useful to study P. carinii diversity, both at the evolutionary and epidemiological levels. To type the special form specific to humans, several methods are currently used to detect polymorphism in PCR products of polymorphic regions of the genome: DNA sequencing, type-specific hybridisations, and single-strand conformation polymorphism. All these methods still need evaluation. The frequency of potential co-infections in humans determined by these various methods is different. The differences could be due to methodological problems or to real variations between patient populations, geographical locations and/or prophylaxis regimens. In the future, elucidating the population structure of P. carinii and the frequency of potential co-infections is going to be crucial for a better understanding of its epidemiology, and thus for a better prevention of P. carinii pneumonia in humans.

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