Division of Giardia isolates from humans into two genetically distinct assemblages by electrophoretic analysis of enzymes encoded at 27 loci and comparison with Giardia muris

Parasitology. 1995 Jul;111 ( Pt 1):11-7. doi: 10.1017/s0031182000064556.


Giardia that infect humans are known to be heterogeneous but they are assigned currently to a single species, Giardia intestinalis (syn. G. lamblia). The genetic differences that exist within G. intestinalis have not yet been assessed quantitatively and neither have they been compared in magnitude with those that exist between G. intestinalis and species that are morphologically similar (G. duodenalis) or morphologically distinct (e.g. G. muris). In this study, 60 Australian isolates of G. intestinalis were analysed electrophoretically at 27 enzyme loci and compared with G. muris and a feline isolate of G. duodenalis. Isolates of G. intestinalis were distinct genetically from both G. muris (approximately 80% fixed allelic differences) and the feline G. duodenalis isolate (approximately 75% fixed allelic differences). The G. intestinalis isolates were extremely heterogeneous but they fell into 2 major genetic assemblages, separated by fixed allelic differences at approximately 60% of loci examined. The magnitude of the genetic differences between the G. intestinalis assemblages approached the level that distinguished the G. duodenalis isolate from the morphologically distinct G. muris. This raises important questions about the evolutionary relationships of the assemblages with Homo sapiens, the possibility of ancient or contemporary transmission from animal hosts to humans and the biogeographical origins of the two clusters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Australia
  • Cats
  • Electrophoresis, Cellulose Acetate
  • Genetic Variation
  • Giardia / classification
  • Giardia / enzymology*
  • Giardia / genetics
  • Giardia lamblia / classification
  • Giardia lamblia / enzymology*
  • Giardia lamblia / genetics
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / analysis*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Mice


  • Isoenzymes