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The ecology and evolution of microsporidian parasites

  • J. E. SMITH (a1)


The phylum Microspora is ancient and diverse and affects a wide range of hosts. There is unusually high use of vertical transmission and this has significant consequences for transmission and pathogenicity. Vertical transmission is associated with low pathogenesis but nevertheless can have significant impact through associated traits such as sex ratio distortion. The majority of microsporidia have mixed transmission cycles and it is not clear whether they are able to modify their phenotype according to environmental circumstances. There is a great need to understand the mechanisms controlling transmission and one of the first challenges for the genomics era is to find genes associated with life cycle stages. Similarly we cannot currently predict the ease with which these parasites might switch between host groups. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that there are strong relationships between Microsporidia and their hosts. However closer typing of parasite isolates, in relation to host range and disease phenotype, is required to assess future environmental risk from these pathogens.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author: Judith E. Smith, Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Miall Building, Faculty of Biological Sciences, The University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK Tel: 0044 (0) 113 343 2892. E-mail:


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