Taxonomy of Leishmania. Use of isoenzymes. Suggestions for a new classification

Ann Parasitol Hum Comp. 1990;65(3):111-25. doi: 10.1051/parasite/1990653111.


The authors propose a new classification for the genus Leishmania Ross, 1903 based both on the use of intrinsic and extrinsic characters and on Linnean and Adansonian methods. The type of vertebrate host makes it possible to recognize the genus group: Leishmania designates Kinetoplastida parasites of mammals. Neighbouring forms which parasite reptiles are now grouped in the genus Sauroleishmania Ranque, 1973. Characteristics of the intravectorial cycle (supra- and peri-pyloric) are used to define the subgenus group (Leishmania, Viannia Lainson and Shaw, 1987). The classification uses biochemical, particularly enzymatic, characters. Elementary taxonomic units are made up of all the strains having the same isoenzyme profile, i.e. the zymodeme. The grouping of the zymodemes is usually performed through automatic techniques which lead to bush-like trees (dendrograms) showing either simple affinities between units (phenograms) or their phyletic relationships (cladograms). The branches recognized as being stable are individualized as "zymodeme complexes". They bear the name of either the previously defined species taxa or that of a specially created one. Two examples of taxonomic constructions, phenetic and cladistic, are presented. Finally, a general classification of the genus is proposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Isoenzymes / analysis*
  • Leishmania / classification*
  • Leishmania / enzymology


  • Isoenzymes