Genetic variation in sympatric Ascaris populations from humans and pigs in China

a1 Division of Infection and Immunity, Joseph Black Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK
a2 Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Park Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
a3 Department of Parasitology, Jiangxi Medical College, Nanchang 330006, China


It has recently been shown using genetic markers that Ascaris in humans and pigs in Central America comprise reproductively isolated populations. We present a similar analysis for a region of China in which close association between pigs and humans has been the norm for thousands of years, and agricultural practices will result in frequent exposure to eggs from both sources. DNA fragments from selected regions of mitochondrial and ribosomal DNA were amplified by PCR and allelic forms identified following digestion with a panel of restriction enzymes, using DNA from a total of 115 individual worms from both people and pigs from 2 neighbouring villages. Significant frequency differences in both mtDNA haplotypes and the rDNA spacer were found between the 2 host-associated populations, indicating that they represented reproductively isolated populations. Mitochondrial haplotype frequencies were different from those observed in Guatemala and also from other Asian Ascaris populations, suggesting low levels of gene flow between populations. However, we found no evidence for significant heterogeneity in the genetic composition of Ascaris infrapopulations in either humans or pigs, possibly indicative of agricultural practices in China which have resulted in a random distribution of alleles within the parasite populations.

(Received January 29 1998)
(Revised April 22 1998)
(Accepted April 22 1998)

Key Words: Mitochondrial DNA; ribosomal DNA; Ascaris lumbricoides; Ascaris suum; China.

c1 Corresponding author: Division of Infection and Immunity, Institute for Biomedical and Life Sciences, Joseph Black Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK. Tel: +44 (0)141 330 5819. Fax: +44 (0)141 330 4600. E-mail: