Regarding our recently published research article in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene,1 Behnke and Harris have suggested that the intestinal nematode used in our study should be called Heligmosomoides bakeri, not H. polygyrus. They cite a report by Cable and others,2 which analyzed the relationship between the two operational taxonomic units of H. polygyrus isolated from wood mouse and laboratory mouse by analyzing the internal transcribed spacers of ribosomal DNA and the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene. Behnke and Harris concluded that the laboratory nematode in the laboratory mouse is H. bakeri, not H. polygyrus.
However, we do not agree that the name of this organism should be changed from H. polygyrus to H. bakeri for a number of reasons. First, a search in the PubMed database (http://ncbi.nlm.nig.gov/pubmed/) found 24 reports published in 2008 with the name Heligmosomoides polygyrus (including our own report), and 3 reports with the name Heligmosomoides bakeri. We do not believe that changing the name of the organism to H. bakeri was widely accepted when our report was written and published in 2008.
Second, Dr. J. Urban (Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD) originally provided the nematode that we used in our study. He did not change the name of the organism from H. polygyrus to H. bakeri. We think it is obligatory to await formal recognition of a name change before it is officially implemented.
Third, the report of Cable and others has some interesting issues that should be emphasized. These investigators did not examine samples of H. polygyrus bakeri. They reported that the laboratory-maintained nematode they used originated from a strain derived from Peromyscus maniculatus. However, the original population of nematodes may have been heterogeneous, which suggests that not all laboratory-maintained nematodes are identical. Although the authors observed a relatively wide genetic diversity in the Guernsey isolate (Figure 2 in Cable and others2), they only raised the level of H. polygyrus bakeri to a distinct species. This observation does not indicate that all of the infected larvae in this study were H. polygyrus bakeri.
On the basis of the popularity of the name of this organism, ethical concerns of researchers, and reliability of the proposed name change, we are not in favor of changing the name of the organism in our report from H. polygyrus to H. bakeri. Instead, we would suggest adding the following sentence at the end of the text: “The nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus used in this study was kindly provided by Dr. J. Urban (Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD).”
We are slightly confused by with this unexpected issue because the purpose of our study was to observe nematode and protozoa infections. A taxonomically accepted name is not always the most popular name; for example, taxonomists refer to the nematode Parastorongylus, which is usually known as Angiostrongylus. It also took considerable time for the name Nematospiroides dubius to be changed to Heligmosomoides polygyrus. Therefore, we request that taxonomic experts quickly reach a consensus about the name of this mouse intestinal nematode because it is a popular and useful experimental model for many researchers.
Tetsutani K, Ishiwata K, Torii M, Hamano S, Hisaeda H, Himeno K, 2008. Concurent infection with Heligmosomoides polygyrus modulates murine host response against Plasmodium berghei ANKA infection. Am J Trop Med Hyg 79 :819–822.
Cable J, Harris PD, Lewis JW, Behnke JM, 2006. Molecular evidence that Heligmosomoides polygyrus from laboratory mice and wood mice are separate species. Parasitology 133 :111–122.