Genetic Characterization of the Asian Taenia, a Newly Described Taeniid Cestode of Humans

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  • Tropical Health Program, Molecular Parasitology Unit, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Recent studies on the epidemiologic pattern of taeniasis in Southeast Asia have indicated the existence of a third form of human Taenia, distinguishable from Taenia saginata and T. solium. Originally termed Taiwan Taenia, and first described in Taiwanese aboriginals, this newly recognized taeniid is now generally referred to as Asian Taenia since it has since been recorded in a number of other Asian countries. Here we have used a genetic yardstick approach to determine whether the Asian Taenia should most appropriately be considered as a new, distinct species or as a subspecies, strain, or variant of T. saginata, which previous studies have shown it closely resembles. Sequence variation in the 28S rRNA and mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) genes of a range of taeniid cestodes and the COI and rDNA internal transcribed spacer I polymerase chain reaction (PCR) restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) pattern differences in the Asian Taenia, T. saginata, and T. solium were used as markers of genetic identity. The PCR-RFLP approaches proved useful for rapid and unambiguous discrimination of Asian Taenia from the other two human species, whereas the mitochondrial and nuclear sequence comparisons indicate that the Asian Taenia is much more closely related to T. saginata than recognized taeniid species are to each other. The results support earlier conclusions that the Asian Taenia is a genetically distinct entity but is closely related to T. saginata, and suggest that its taxonomic classification as a subspecies or strain of T. saginata is more appropriate than formal designation as a new species. The very close relationship between Asian Taenia and T. saginata has public health implications in that the Asian form is unlikely to be an important cause of human cysticercosis because T. saginata cysticercosis, if it occurs at all in humans, is an extremely rare phenomenon.

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