Genetic Diversity Within the Morphological Species Giardia Intestinalis and Its Relationship to Host Origin

Infect Genet Evol. 2003 May;3(1):29-38. doi: 10.1016/s1567-1348(02)00149-1.


A genetic analysis of Giardia intestinalis, a parasitic protozoan species that is ubiquitous in mammals worldwide, was undertaken using organisms derived from a variety of mammalian hosts in different geographical locations. The test panel of 53 Giardia isolates comprised 48 samples of G. intestinalis, including representatives of all known genetic subgroups, plus an isolate of G. ardeae and four isolates of G. muris. The isolates were compared by allozymic analysis of electrophoretic data obtained for 21 cytosolic enzymes, representing 23 gene loci. Neighbour Joining analysis of the allelic profiles supported the monophyly of G. intestinalis but showed that the species encompasses a rich population substructure. Seven major clusters were evident within G. intestinalis, corresponding to lineages designated previously as genetic assemblages A-G. Some genotypes, e.g. those defining assemblage A, are found in divergent host species and may be zoonotic. However other genotypes, e.g. those defining assemblages C-G, appear to be confined to particular hosts or host groups. The findings reinforce other evidence that G. intestinalis, which was defined on the basis of morphological criteria only, is a species complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Giardia lamblia / enzymology
  • Giardia lamblia / genetics*
  • Giardia lamblia / isolation & purification
  • Giardia lamblia / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Isoenzymes / analysis
  • Mammals / parasitology
  • Phylogeny
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Species Specificity


  • Isoenzymes
  • Protozoan Proteins