The pathogenic trypanosomes Trypanosoma equiperdum, T. evansi as well as T. brucei are morphologically identical. In horses, these parasites are considered to cause respectively dourine, surra and nagana. Previous molecular attempts to differentiate these species were not successful for T. evansi and T. equiperdum; only T. b. brucei could be differentiated to a certain extent. In this study we analysed 10 T. equiperdum, 8 T. evansi and 4 T. b. brucei using Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and multiplex-endonuclease fingerprinting, a modified AFLP technique. The results obtained confirm the homogeneity of the T. evansi group tested. The T. b. brucei clustered out in a heterogenous group. For T. equiperdum the situation is more complex: 8 out of 10 T. equiperdum clustered together with the T. evansi group, while 2 T. equiperdum strains were more related to T. b. brucei. Hence, 2 hypotheses can be formulated: (1) only 2 T. equiperdum strains are genuine T. equiperdum causing dourine; all other T. equiperdum strains actually are T. evansi causing surra or (2) T. equiperdum does not exist at all. In that case, the different clinical outcome of horse infections with T. evansi or T. b. brucei is primarily related to the host immune response.
- kinetoplast dna