The genus Leishmania includes a large number of species, with at least 39 species described in the literature, which reflects this group’s capacity to parasitize a wide range of vertebrate hosts and sand flies, but, in particular, to produce a wide range of clinical presentations in humans. Taxonomy within the genus Leishmania is still not fully established, with ongoing debates about species definitions and, therefore, number of species, as well as about subgenera. Recent molecular data and phylogenetic analyses support simplification of Leishmania taxonomy to fewer species. These consensus species would be L. donovani, L. major, L. tropica and L. mexicana within the subgenus L. (Leishmania) and L. braziliensis and L. guyanensis within L. (Viannia). Reptilian parasites, formerly in a separate genus, now belong to the third and only other current subgenus, L. (Sauroleishmania). Other groups remain controversial and unnamed, such as the parasites initially placed under the genus Endotrypanum and species related to L. enrietti. New species continue to be discovered or named, particularly in previously poorly known or represented groups. Better taxonomies rely on the quality of the markers used, ideally the entire genome, as well as sufficient numbers of samples that are representative of each species diversity as well as across the entire genus. A consensus on Leishmania taxonomy should be agreed upon and adhered to in publications to avoid confusion particularly among clinicians, as well as researchers.
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Polyphyly: a group of organisms whose last common ancestor is not a member of the group.
Paraphyly: a group of organisms that includes the last common ancestor, but not all of its descendants.
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I would like to thank all the researchers that have worked and published in the subject of Leishmania taxonomy, including any that have not been cited in this chapter.
This work has been written in the context of FCT (Portugal) financing of the GHTM centre, GHTM −UID/Multi/04413/2013.
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Maurício, I.L. (2018). Leishmania Taxonomy. In: Bruschi, F., Gradoni, L. (eds) The Leishmaniases: Old Neglected Tropical Diseases. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72386-0_2
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