Small-subunit (SSU) rRNA gene sequences were obtained by PCR from 12 Blastocystis isolates from humans, rats, and reptiles for which elongation factor 1alpha (EF-1alpha) gene sequences are already available. These new sequences were analyzed by the Bayesian method in a broad phylogeny including, for the first time, all Blastocystis sequences available in the databases. Phylogenetic trees identified seven well-resolved groups plus several discrete lineages that could represent newly defined clades. Comparative analysis of SSU rRNA- and EF-1alpha-based trees obtained by maximum-likelihood methods from a restricted sampling (13 isolates) revealed overall agreement between the two phylogenies. In spite of their morphological similarity, sequence divergence among Blastocystis isolates reflected considerable genetic diversity that could be correlated with the existence of potentially >/=12 different species within the genus. Based on this analysis and previous PCR-based genotype classification data, six of these major groups might consist of Blastocystis isolates from both humans and other animal hosts, confirming the low host specificity of Blastocystis. Our results also strongly suggest the existence of numerous zoonotic isolates with frequent animal-to-human and human-to-animal transmissions and of a large potential reservoir in animals for infections in humans.