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Comparative genetic diversity of Cryptosporidium species causing human infections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2020

Juan C. Garcia-R*
Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory, Hopkirk Research Institute, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, 4442, New Zealand
Murray P. Cox
Statistics and Bioinformatics Group, School of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North4442, New Zealand Te Pūnaha Matatini, Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems, Auckland, New Zealand
David T. S. Hayman
Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory, Hopkirk Research Institute, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, 4442, New Zealand Te Pūnaha Matatini, Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems, Auckland, New Zealand
Author for correspondence: Juan C. Garcia-R, E-mail:


Parasites sometimes expand their host range and cause new disease aetiologies. Genetic changes can then occur due to host-specific adaptive alterations, particularly when parasites cross between evolutionarily distant hosts. Characterizing genetic variation in Cryptosporidium from humans and other animals may have important implications for understanding disease dynamics and transmission. We analyse sequences from four loci (gp60, HSP-70, COWP and actin) representing multiple Cryptosporidium species reported in humans. We predicted low genetic diversity in species that present unusual human infections due to founder events and bottlenecks. High genetic diversity was observed in isolates from humans of Cryptosporidium meleagridis, Cryptosporidium cuniculus, Cryptosporidium hominis and Cryptosporidium parvum. A deviation of expected values of neutrality using Tajima's D was observed in C. cuniculus and C. meleagridis. The high genetic diversity in C. meleagridis and C. cuniculus did not match our expectations but deviations from neutrality indicate a recent decrease in genetic variability through a population bottleneck after an expansion event. Cryptosporidium hominis was also found with a significant Tajima's D positive value likely caused by recent population expansion of unusual genotypes in humans. These insights indicate that changes in genetic diversity can help us to understand host-parasite adaptation and evolution.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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