Phylogenetic relationships among Toxocara spp. and Toxascaris sp. from different regions of the world
Toxocara and Toxascaris are parasitic nematodes that infect canids and felids although species of the genus Toxocara also infect humans. This work aimed to establish the phylogenetic and phylogeographic relationship between specimens of T. canis, T. cati, T. malaysiensis and Toxascaris leonina and to evaluate the degree of host specificity. In total, 437 samples (adults and pools of eggs) were collected from canids and felids from eight countries. Parasites were identified by morphology, PCR linked Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) and partial sequencing of the mitochondrial gene cox1. Phylogenetic trees were constructed and genetic distance among isolates was estimated. Based on the molecular characterization all worms were identified in agreement with their respective hosts with the exception of three samples; two from cats and one from dogs identified as T. canis and T. cati, respectively. There was no clear geographical clustering of the samples despite this study including parasites from three continents. This is the first study, to our knowledge, to use molecular methods to identify T. canis in cats and T. cati in dogs with host specificity being the most common finding. Our developed PCR-RFLP method was found to be a facile and reliable method for identifying Toxocara species.