Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Putting Us In Our Place

From The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology :
The first major higher level classification of all organisms (with the exception of bacteria), coordinated by the International Society of Protistologists, overturns previously held scientific assumptions. 28 experts representing the fields of microbiology, mycology, parasitology, phycology, and protozoology contributed to this joint effort, which incorporates new data, obtained in the past 25 years, in such diverse areas as biochemistry and metabolism, electron microscopic structure, and gene sequences.

This classification conveys important information about the biochemistry and metabolism of disease-causing organisms. Here are three examples. 1) Pneumocystis, an opportunistic pathogen causing mortality in AIDS patients and immunocompromised individuals, is now known to be a fungus, indicating a different treatment regimen is needed. 2) Phytophtora, an organism causing potato blight, such as the one that caused the Irish famine in the 19th century, is now known not to be a fungus, which explains why fungicides are not effective treatments. 3) Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria, is now known to share ancestry with photosynthetic organisms and has a vestigial chloroplast, called the apicoplast. This knowledge opens exciting possibilities for novel drug therapies.
Highly useful. Identifying Plasmodium as having more vegetable than animal characteristics was a big breakthrough, and happened less than 10 years ago. Now onto the re-classification :
The new classification recognizes 6 major clusters of organisms, rather than the 4 traditional Kingdoms. These clusters are 1) the Opisthokonta, grouping the animals, fungi, choanoflagellates, and Mesomycetozoa....
So, like all other animals, we're in with the Fungi.

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