Microsporidia: emerging advances in understanding the basic biology of these unique organisms

Int J Parasitol. 2000 Jun;30(7):795-804. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(00)00064-3.


Microsporidia are long-known parasites of a wide variety of invertebrate and vertebrate hosts. The emergence of these obligate intracellular organisms as important opportunistic pathogens during the AIDS pandemic and the discovery of new species in humans renewed interest in this unique group of organisms. This review summarises recent advances in the field of molecular biology of microsporidia which (i) contributed to the understanding of the natural origin of human-infecting microsporidia, (ii) revealed unique genetic features of their dramatically reduced genome and (iii) resulted in the correction of their phylogenetic placement among eukaryotes from primitive protozoans to highly evolved organisms related to fungi. Microsporidia might serve as new intracellular model organisms in the future given that gene transfer systems will be developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / complications*
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / parasitology
  • Animals
  • DNA, Protozoan / chemistry
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Dogs
  • Encephalitozoon cuniculi / chemistry
  • Encephalitozoon cuniculi / classification
  • Encephalitozoon cuniculi / genetics
  • Encephalitozoonosis / complications
  • Encephalitozoonosis / parasitology
  • Enterocytozoon / chemistry
  • Enterocytozoon / classification
  • Enterocytozoon / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microsporidia / chemistry
  • Microsporidia / classification
  • Microsporidia / genetics*
  • Microsporidiosis / complications*
  • Microsporidiosis / parasitology
  • Phylogeny*
  • Rabbits


  • DNA, Protozoan