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Are Ascaris lumbricoides and Ascaris suum a single species?

Daniela Leles1, Scott L Gardner2, Karl Reinhard3, Alena Iñiguez4 and Adauto Araujo5*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Microbiologia e Parasitologia, Instituto Biomédico, Universidade Federal Fluminense, MIP-UFF, Rua Professor Hernani Melo 101, São Domingos, Niterói, 24210-130, RJ, Brazil

2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology W 529 Nebraska Hall University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0514 USA

3 School of Natural Resource Sciences, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 6940 Van Dorn Street Ste 105, Lincoln, Nebraska 68506, USA

4 Intituto Oswaldo Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Av. Brasil 4365, Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, 21045-900, RJ, Brazil

5 Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rua Leopoldo Bulhões 1480, Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, 21041-210, RJ, Brazil

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Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:42  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-42

Published: 20 February 2012


Since the original description and naming of Ascaris lumbricoides from humans by Linnaeus in 1758 and later of Ascaris suum from pigs by Goeze 1782, these species have been considered to be valid. Four hypotheses relative to the conspecificity or lack thereof (and thus origin of these species) are possible: 1) Ascaris lumbricoides (usually infecting humans) and Ascaris suum (recorded mostly from pigs) are both valid species, with the two species originating via a speciation event from a common ancestor sometime before the domestication of pigs by humans, or 2) Ascaris lumbricoides in humans is derived directly from the species A. suum found in pigs with A. suum then existing as a persistent ancestor after formation of A. lumbricoides, or 3) Ascaris suum is derived directly from A. lumbricoides with the persistent ancestor being A. lumbricoides and A. suum being the newly derived species, and finally, 4) Ascaris lumbricoides and A. suum are the same species, this hypothesis being supported by studies showing both low morphological and low genetic divergence at several genes. We present and discuss paleoparasitological and genetic evidence that complement new data to evaluate the origin and evolution of Ascaris spp. in humans and pigs, and the uniqueness of the species in both hosts. Finally, we conclude that Ascaris lumbricoides and A. suum are a single species and that the name A. lumbricoides Linnaeus 1758 has taxonomic priority; therefore A. suum Goeze 1782 should be considered a synonym of A. lumbricoides.

Ascaris; coprolites; host-parasite evolution; paleoparasitology; parasitism; helminthiasis