• Theileria;
  • Babesia;
  • small subunit ribosomal RNA gene phylogeny

Abstract: Taxonomic characterization of organisms in the genera Theileria and Babesia was originally based on observations of morphology and certain general phenotypic characteristics, which enabled many parasites to be unequivocally assigned to a particular genus. However, application of molecular genetic techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for gene amplification, and DNA sequencing, have revealed gross inconsistencies in the assignation of some parasite genetic variants, particularly those of the B. gibsoni and B. microti complexes, to the genus Babesia. These variants cannot be assigned, on the basis of sequence information and phylogenetic analysis, to either of the genera Theileria and Babesia. The gene for which most sequence information is available for phylogenetic analysis is the small subunit ribosomal RNA (srRNA) gene. This gene allows clear distinction of the genera Theileria and Babesia (sensu stricto) and reveals that many “Babesia” variants are phylogenetically distinct from both genera. This distinction is confirmed, for some of the variants, by β-tubulin sequence data, suggesting that the organisms should be renamed and reclassified.