Mitochondrial DNA and Ascaris microepidemiology the composition of parasite populations from individual hosts, families and villages

T. J.C. Anderson, J. Jaenike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Patterns of genetic subdivision in parasite populations can provide important insights into transmission processes and complement information obtained using traditional epidemiological techniques. We describe mitochondrial sequence variation in 265 Ascaris collected from 62 individual hosts (humans and pigs) from 35 households in 3 Guatemalan locations. Restriction mapping of individual worms revealed 42 distinct mitochondrial genotypes. We ask whether the mitochondrial genotypes found in worms from individual hosts, from families of hosts and from villages represent random samples from the total Ascaris population. Patterns of genetic subdivision were quantified using F-statistics, while deviations from the null hypothesis of randomness were evaluated by a simple resampling procedure. The analysis revealed significant deviations from panmixia. Parasite populations were strongly structured at the level of the individual host in both humans and pigs: parasites bearing the same mitochondrial genotype were found more frequently than would be expected by chance within hosts. Significant heterogeneity was also observed among populations from different villages, but not from different families within a village. The clustering of related parasites within hosts suggests a similar clustering of related infective stages in the environment and may explain why sex ratios in Ascaris are female-biased. We discuss aspects of Ascaris biology which may lead to the observed patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-229
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascaris
  • Guatemala
  • epidemiology
  • genetic structure
  • mitochondrial DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Infectious Diseases


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