Trichinella spiralis has historically been deemed "the pig parasite" owing to its initial classification within a monospecific genus. However, in recent years, the genus has expanded to include 10 distinct species and at least 3 different genotypes whose taxonomic status remains unstipulated. In contrast to T. spiralis, however, most of these sylvatic species and genotypes do not infect pigs well. Inasmuch as morphological characters cannot be used to define species within this genus, earlier classifications were based upon host and geographical ranges, biological characters, and the presence or absence of a collagen capsule that surrounds the muscle stage larvae. Later, isoenzymes, DNA gel fragmentation patterns and DNA probes were used to help in identification and classification. Today, amidst the "-omics" revolution, new molecular and biochemical-based methodologies have improved detection, differentiation and characterization at all levels including worm populations. These efforts have discernably expanded immunological, epidemiological, and genetic studies resulting in better hypotheses on the evolution of the genus, and on global events, transmission cycles, host associations, and biogeographical histories that contributed to its cosmopolitan distribution. Reviews of this sort are best begun with a background on the genus; however, efforts will divert to the most recent knowledge available on the taxonomy, phylogeny, epidemiology and biochemistry that define this genus in the 21st century.
Keywords: Diagnosis; Genomics; Identification; Phylogeny; Proteomics; Review; Taxonomy; Trichinella.
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