The mesophilic round-spored bacteria embrace four species, namely Bacillus sphaericus, Bacillus fusiformis, Bacillus silvestris and Bacillus pasteurii. Although not displayed by all strains, mosquito pathogenicity is a noteworthy characteristic of B. sphaericus sensu lato. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rDNA sequences from 58 strains identified as B. sphaericus was used to examine the genetic heterogeneity of the taxon. Results from sequence analysis were compared with whole-cell fatty acid profiles and other phenotypic determinations. The B. sphaericus-like strains segregated into seven distinct clusters in a phylogenetic tree generated from 16S sequences. One cluster represented B. sphaericus and another B. fusiformis. A third cluster containing all of the pathogenic strains was closely related to, or was possibly part of, the B. fusiformis group. The remaining four groups were distinct and represented unnamed taxa that were more closely related to B. sphaericus and B. fusiformis than to the psychrophilic round-spored species, Bacillus globisporus and Bacillus psychrophilus. Groups based on phenotypic analysis corresponded to the 16S rDNA phylogenetic clusters. Data showed that B. sphaericus was genetically and phenotypically a highly heterogeneous taxon including at least seven genetically distinct taxa. The pathogenic strains were members of a distinct group and not of the species B. sphaericus sensu stricto. This heterogeneity partially accounts for the apparent variability of mosquito pathogenicity among B. sphaericus strains.


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