The adult Taenia solium, the pork tapeworm, usually lives as a single worm in the small intestine of humans, its only known definitive host. Mechanisms of genetic variation in T. solium are poorly understood. Using three microsatellite markers previously reported , this study explored the genetic variability of T. solium from cysts recovered from experimentally infected pigs. It then explored the genetic epidemiology and transmission in naturally infected pigs and adult tapeworms recovered from human carriers from an endemic rural community in Peru. In an initial study on experimental infection, two groups of three piglets were each infected with proglottids from one of two genetically different tapeworms for each of the microsatellites. After 7 weeks, pigs were slaughtered and necropsy performed. Thirty-six (92.3%) out of 39 cysts originated from one tapeworm, and 27 (100%) out of 27 cysts from the other had exactly the same genotype as the parental tapeworm. This suggests that the microsatellite markers may be a useful tool for studying the transmission of T. solium. In the second study, we analyzed the genetic variation of T. solium in cysts recovered from eight naturally infected pigs, and from adult tapeworms recovered from four human carriers; they showed genetic variability. Four pigs had cysts with only one genotype, and four pigs had cysts with two different genotypes, suggesting that multiple infections of genetically distinct parental tapeworms are possible. Six pigs harbored cysts with a genotype corresponding to one of the identified tapeworms from the human carriers. In the dendrogram, cysts appeared to cluster within the corresponding pigs as well as with the geographical origin, but this association was not statistically significant. We conclude that genotyping of microsatellite size polymorphisms is a potentially important tool to trace the spread of infection and pinpoint sources of infection as pigs spread cysts with a shared parental genotype.
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