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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MOLECULAR SYSTEMATICS AND COMPARATIVE POPULATION GENETICS OF PARASITIC ORGANISMS THAT THREATEN FOOD SAFETY AND SECURITY Title: How Human History Has Influenced Geography and Genetics of Parasite Populations

Author
item ROSENTHAL, BENJAMIN

Submitted to: Trends in Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 29, 2008
Publication Date: December 16, 2008
Citation: Rosenthal, B.M. 2008. How human history has influenced geography and genetics of parasite populations. Trends in Parasitology. 25(2):67-70.

Interpretive Summary: In this article I propose that human beings may have 'inadvertently domesticated' several parasites of animals, including those that induce human disease, over the course of human history. Reviewing recent work of our lab, and findings from the labs of others, I consider cases where especially widespread parasites of livestock harbor exceptionally little genetic variability, when compared with related parasites in wildlife hosts. If this proposal withstands further scrutiny, it should suggest not only the origins of zoonotic parasites but also possible interventions.

Technical Abstract: Human beings have radically altered agricultural landscapes, establishing a limited repertoire of plants and animals over vast expanses. Here, I consider what impact such a history may have had on the distribution and diversity of animal parasite, hypothesizing that certain parasites may have been 'inadvertently domesticated.' Recent findings comparing the parasites of wildlife and domesticated hosts are reviewed from this perspective, including species of Trichinella, Taenia, Toxoplasma, and Sarcocystis. As predicted, parasites of abundant and broadly distributed livestock hosts evidently harbor exceptionally little genetic variability. By posing this question and illustrating the means for its critical evaluation, I hope to engender further exploration of the human impact on parasite evolutionary ecology.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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