Date of this Version
2005 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc
Since Owen first described Trichinella as a human pathogen in 1835, the number of organisms comprising this genus has grown dramatically. Where it was once thought to be a monospecific group, this genus is now comprised of eight species and three additional genotypic variants that have yet to be taxonomically defined. Along with the growth in the genus and description of the parasites has come a concomitant increase in our understanding of the epidemiology and geographical distribution of these organisms. Recent expansion of the non-encapsulated group to include three species biologically defined by their unique host ranges encompassing mammals, birds and reptiles, has raised substantial questions as to the term, ‘Trichinella-free’ as it applies to geographical localities. A true appreciation of the adaptability of this genus to host and environmental selection factors, as well as its dissemination to the far reaches of the world can best be appreciated by reviewing what we know and what we hope to know about this ancient and elusive parasite. The review herein consolidates our current understanding of the taxonomy, epidemiology, and phylogeny of the genus Trichinella, and identifies areas where data are lacking and our knowledge requires additional clarification.