Host adaptation and host-parasite co-evolution in Cryptosporidium: Implications for taxonomy and public health

Lihua Xiao, Irshad M. Sulaiman, Una M. Ryan, Ling Zhou, Edward R Atwill, Monica L. Tischler, Xichen Zhang, Ronald Fayer, Altaf A. Lal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


To assess the genetic diversity and evolution of Cryptosporidium parasites, the partial ssrRNA, actin, and 70 kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) genes of 15 new Cryptosporidium parasites were sequenced. Sequence data were analysed together with those previously obtained from other Cryptosporidium parasites (10 Cryptosporidium spp. and eight Cryptosporidium genotypes). Results of this multi-locus genetic characterisation indicate that host adaptation is a general phenomenon in the genus Cryptosporidium, because specific genotypes were usually associated with specific groups of animals. On the other hand, host-parasite co-evolution is also common in Cryptosporidium, as closely related hosts usually had related Cryptosporidium parasites. Results of phylogenetic analyses suggest that the Cryptosporidium parvum bovine genotype and Cryptosporidium meleagridis were originally parasites of rodents and mammals, respectively, but have subsequently expanded their host ranges to include humans. Understanding the evolution of Cryptosporidium species is important not only for clarification of the taxonomy of the parasites but also for assessment of the public health significance of Cryptosporidium parasites from animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1773-1785
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 19 2002


  • Cryptosporidium
  • Evolution
  • Host adaptation
  • Phylogenetics
  • Public health
  • Systematics
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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