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Extensive genetic diversity, unique population structure and evidence of genetic exchange in the sexually transmitted parasite Trichomonas vaginalis

Conrad, Melissa D. and Gorman, Andrew W. and Schillinger, Julia A. and Fiori, Pier Luigi and Arroyo Verastegui, Rossana and Malla, Nancy and Dubey, Mohan Lal and González, Jorge and Blank, Susan and Secor, William E. and Carlton, Jane M. (2012) Extensive genetic diversity, unique population structure and evidence of genetic exchange in the sexually transmitted parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, Vol. 6 (3), e1573. eISSN 1935-2735. Article.

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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001573

Abstract

Background Trichomonas vaginalis is the causative agent of human trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection world-wide. Despite its prevalence, little is known about the genetic diversity and population structure of this haploid parasite due to the lack of appropriate tools. The development of a panel of microsatellite makers and SNPs from mining the parasite's genome sequence has paved the way to a global analysis of the genetic structure of the pathogen and association with clinical phenotypes.
Methodology/Principal Findings Here we utilize a panel of T. vaginalis-specific genetic markers to genotype 235 isolates from Mexico, Chile, India, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Italy, Africa and the United States, including 19 clinical isolates recently collected from 270 women attending New York City sexually transmitted disease clinics. Using population genetic analysis, we show that T. vaginalis is a genetically diverse parasite with a unique population structure consisting of two types present in equal proportions world-wide. Parasites belonging to the two types (type 1 and type 2) differ significantly in the rate at which they harbor the T. vaginalis virus, a dsRNA virus implicated in parasite pathogenesis, and in their sensitivity to the widely-used drug, metronidazole. We also uncover evidence of genetic exchange, indicating a sexual life-cycle of the parasite despite an absence of morphologically-distinct sexual stages.
Conclusions/Significance Our study represents the first robust and comprehensive evaluation of global T. vaginalis genetic diversity and population structure. Our identification of a unique two-type structure, and the clinically relevant phenotypes associated with them, provides a new dimension for understanding T. vaginalis pathogenesis. In addition, our demonstration of the possibility of genetic exchange in the parasite has important implications for genetic research and control of the disease.

Item Type:Article
ID Code:7348
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Subjects:Area 06 - Scienze mediche > MED/07 Microbiologia e microbiologia clinica
Divisions:001 Università di Sassari > 01-a Nuovi Dipartimenti dal 2012 > Scienze Biomediche
Publisher:Public Library of Science
eISSN:1935-2735
Deposited On:10 Apr 2012 12:11

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