Blastocystis is a common intestinal micro-eukaryote found in both humans and non-human hosts and known to be genetically very diverse. It has been divided into numerous subtypes (STs), nine of which have been identified in humans to date. Surveys of ST prevalence have started to emerge over the past few years but to date no data are available for any African country except Egypt and Tanzania. In this study, we determined the prevalence of Blastocystis STs in populations from Libya, Liberia and Nigeria, as well as expanding the dataset available for the UK. A total of 356 Blastocystis STs were identified in this study, 271 from the UK, 38 from Libya, 25 from Liberia and 22 from Nigeria. SSU rRNA gene sequences revealed the presence of eight of the nine STs known from humans but at varying frequencies between countries. ST1 was the most common ST in Libya and Nigeria whereas ST3 showed the highest frequency in the other two countries, as indeed is the case in most populations around the world. ST4 was absent in Libya and ST2 in Nigeria, while no ST5, ST6, ST8 or ST9 infections were detected in any of the three African populations. The picture emerging from this and other surveys suggests that there is significant variation in ST prevalence between populations. Some of the possible reasons for and implications of this diversity are discussed.
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