Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals

A special issue of Parasitologia (ISSN 2673-6772).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2023) | Viewed by 6680

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Laboratory of Molecular Ecology, Nature Research Centre, 08421 Vilnius, Lithuania
Interests: apicomplexan parasites; Sarcocystis spp.; phylogenetics; population genetics; taxonomy
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Members of the genus Sarcocystis are worldwide-distributed, abundant apicomplexan parasites of mammals, birds, and reptiles. These parasites are characterised by a prey–predator two-host life cycle. Sarcocystis form mainly in muscles and the CNS, while sporocysts develop in the intestinal mucosa of definitive hosts and are excreted into the environment together with faeces. Currently, over 200 species are known, only a few of which are zoonotic. Frequently overlooked Sarcocystis spp. causes millions in losses due to grossly visible macrocystis, subclinical, and clinical infections, reduced milk and wool production, failure to grow, reproductive problems and raises concerns for consumers about food safety. Due to economic losses, Sarcocystis spp. are most comprehensively investigated in farmed animals. Nevertheless, these parasites can be responsible for myositis, encephalitis, hepatitis, and even death in wildlife animals. The detailed characterization of Sarcocystis parasites involves combined morphological, genetic, life cycle, and epidemiological data. However, most studies are fragmented, focusing only on one of the above-mentioned aspects, resulting in the diversity of Sarcocystis spp. in various intermediate hosts still not being fully resolved. Furthermore, the genetic identification of Sarcocystis species is not developed enough, mainly relying on the sequencing of one–several genes.

The aim of this Special Issue is to describe modern research on Sarcocystis spp. in various intermediate and definitive hosts, highlighting the importance of these parasites in domestic and wildlife animals.

We invite studies focusing on the epidemiology, molecular and morphological characterisation, pathogenicity, food safety, and life cycle disclosure of Sarcocystis parasites. The submission of studies carried out in various geographical regions is welcomed.

Dr. Petras Prakas
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • species identification
  • epidemiology
  • food safety
  • pathogenicity
  • molecular characterization
  • microscopy
  • phylogeny
  • life cycle

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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10 pages, 687 KiB  
Article
Prevalence and Intensity of Sarcocystis spp. Infections in Alpine Chamois (Rupicapra r. rupicapra) in Germany
by Steffen Rehbein and Martin Visser
Parasitologia 2024, 4(1), 61-70; https://doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia4010005 - 18 Feb 2024
Viewed by 686
Abstract
Chamois are mountain ungulates (Artiodactyla: Caprinae) which inhabit several medium- and high-altitude mountain ranges from southern Europe to the Near East. The first findings of Sarcocystis cysts in the musculature of chamois were reported in the 1970s. However, only limited work on the [...] Read more.
Chamois are mountain ungulates (Artiodactyla: Caprinae) which inhabit several medium- and high-altitude mountain ranges from southern Europe to the Near East. The first findings of Sarcocystis cysts in the musculature of chamois were reported in the 1970s. However, only limited work on the epidemiology of sarcocystosis and the identification of the species of Sarcocystis in chamois has been carried out in the past. The present study aimed to provide, for the first time, data on the prevalence and intensity of Sarcocystis spp. Infection in native Alpine chamois using a histology examination of heart and/or diaphragm tissue samples collected from 216 chamois (40 kids [<1 year] and 176 chamois ranging up to 18 years of age). Sarcocysts were detected in either the heart or diaphragm of 167/216 chamois (77.3%), with 131 of 183 heart samples and 127 of 215 diaphragm samples testing sarcocyst-positive. Of the 181 chamois with both heart and diaphragm samples available (34 kids and 147 older animals), sarcocysts were detected in the heart and/or diaphragm of 142 animals, translating to an overall 78.5% prevalence of Sarcocystis spp. infection (95%CI 72.5–84.4%). Sarcocysts were more frequently recorded in the heart vs. diaphragm (72.4% vs. 56.4%; p = 0.0021), and diaphragm positivity was associated with heart positivity (p = 0.0001). The sarcocyst prevalence (heart and/or diaphragm) was significantly (p < 0.001) lower in the kids than in the older chamois (27.1% vs. 88.6%, respectively); however, it did not differ between the sexes, regardless of the chamois’ age (p > 0.3). The intensity of infection was generally low (<10 sarcocysts per cm2 muscle cut) in both heart-positive and diaphragm-positive animals (94.7% and 93.7%, respectively). The heart tissue yielded higher sarcocyst counts than the diaphragm tissue (p < 0.001). Both the heart and diaphragm sarcocyst counts were significantly (p < 0.001) lower in the kids than in the older chamois. Sarcocystis spp. infection was demonstrated to be prevalent in chamois in Germany, but its intensity is apparently low. Further studies are desired to identify the species of Sarcocystis parasitizing the chamois using both phenotypic and molecular characteristics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals)
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15 pages, 574 KiB  
Article
Discovery of Antigens and Cellular Mechanisms in the Protozoan Parasite Sarcocystis aucheniae Using Immunoproteomics
by Sarah Nathaly Wieser, Cecilia Decker-Franco, Paloma de Alba, Sandra Romero, Alejandro Ferrari, Leonhard Schnittger and Mónica Florin-Christensen
Parasitologia 2023, 3(4), 349-363; https://doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia3040034 - 26 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1135
Abstract
Sarcocystis aucheniae is a coccidian parasite that produces macroscopic sarcocysts in South American camelid (SAC) muscles and causes a disease known as SAC sarcocystosis. This parasitosis hampers the commercialization of llama and alpaca meat, a vital economic activity in the Andean regions. No [...] Read more.
Sarcocystis aucheniae is a coccidian parasite that produces macroscopic sarcocysts in South American camelid (SAC) muscles and causes a disease known as SAC sarcocystosis. This parasitosis hampers the commercialization of llama and alpaca meat, a vital economic activity in the Andean regions. No control or prevention methods are available, and diagnosis is based on postmortem visual inspection of carcasses. The aim of this study was to identify S. aucheniae B-cell epitopes suitable for the development of diagnostic methods for SAC sarcocystosis. To this end, sarcocyst immunoreactive protein bands were analyzed via mass spectrometry, and proteins in each band were identified in silico by searching in the parasite transcriptome. Five highly antigenic, hydrophilic B-cell epitopes, predicted not to cross-react with antibodies against other coccidia, were selected for future development of peptide-based serological tests. In addition, conserved domains present in the identified proteins allowed us to unravel metabolic pathways and mechanisms active in the parasitic stages present in sarcocysts, including aerobic respiration, antioxidant activity, signal transduction, protein synthesis and processing, and host–pathogen interactions. This study provides novel information on the biology of S. aucheniae, as well as new protein sequences that can be used for the development of diagnostic tests and chemotherapeutic approaches for SAC sarcocystosis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals)
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10 pages, 1423 KiB  
Communication
Associative Genetic Diversity of Sarcocystis levinei Isolates across the Globe
by Vikrant Sudan, Daya Shanker, Sanjhi Paliwal and Rahul Kumar
Parasitologia 2023, 3(3), 231-240; https://doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia3030024 - 4 Jul 2023
Viewed by 978
Abstract
Bubaline sarcocystosis, caused by Sarcocystis levinei, is worldwide in distribution. Yet, very limited reports are available across the globe on the phylogenetic aspects of this particular Sarcocystis spp. Virtually no literature is available on its molecular aspects from India. Thus, the present [...] Read more.
Bubaline sarcocystosis, caused by Sarcocystis levinei, is worldwide in distribution. Yet, very limited reports are available across the globe on the phylogenetic aspects of this particular Sarcocystis spp. Virtually no literature is available on its molecular aspects from India. Thus, the present study was designed to phylogenetically characterize the various isolates of S. levinei based on 18S rRNA and cox 1 mitochondrial genes. A total of 11 isolates of S. levinei from Northern India were characterized for 18S rRNA (MG957189-MG957199) and cox 1 (MH255771-MH255781) genes. PCR products were cloned, sequenced, and compared with other sequences across the world. A phylogenetic tree was constructed based on the maximum likelihood (ML) method. Phylogenetic analysis placed S. levinei and S. cruzi into two monophyletic sister groups. An appreciable amount of genetic variability was noticed between various S. levinei sequences for both the gene loci. A total of three haplotypes were noticed for each gene. The generated sequences showed 99.8–100.0% and 99.7–100.0% nucleotide homologies within themselves with regard to the 18S rRNA and cox 1 genes, respectively. Few of the studied sequences showed marked similarity and closeness with the Egyptian sequences than their Indian counterparts. This is the first report of molecular characterization and sequence phylogenetic study of S. levinei from India. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals)
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9 pages, 764 KiB  
Communication
The Richness of Sarcocystis Species in the Common Gull (Larus canus) and Black-Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) from Lithuania
by Evelina Juozaitytė-Ngugu and Petras Prakas
Parasitologia 2023, 3(2), 172-180; https://doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia3020018 - 10 May 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1344
Abstract
The common gull (Larus canus) and the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) are common waterbird species in Lithuania. Until now, the composition of Sarcocystis species in these birds was unknown. The current study aimed to identify Sarcocystis spp. by the [...] Read more.
The common gull (Larus canus) and the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) are common waterbird species in Lithuania. Until now, the composition of Sarcocystis species in these birds was unknown. The current study aimed to identify Sarcocystis spp. by the morphological examination of sarcocysts found in the muscle tissues and by DNA sequence analysis. Between 2011 and 2019, the leg muscles of 42 common gulls and 63 black-headed gulls were tested for Sarcocystis spp. Based on the methylene blue staining of squashed muscle samples, sarcocysts were detected in six common gulls (14.3%) and in six black-headed gulls (9.5%). Under a light microscope, one type of microcyst was observed. Sarcocysts were thread-like (2860–8250 × 40–180 μm) and had a smooth and thin (0.8–1.4 μm) cyst wall, while bradyzoites were banana-shaped and 5.0–9.2 × 1.3–2.4 μm in size. The sequencing of complete ITS1 showed the presence of S. columbae, S. halieti and S. wobeseri in the common gull and S. columbae and S. halieti in the black-headed gull. The highest intraspecific genetic variability was established for S. halieti, which is characterized by a wide host range. This species is considered to be pathogenic, therefore further histopathological examination of the various organs of gulls is needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals)
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Review

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21 pages, 833 KiB  
Review
Sarcocystis Species (Apicomplexa, Eucoccidiorida) Parasitizing Snakes
by Taynar Lima Bezerra, Rodrigo Martins Soares and Luís Fernando Pita Gondim
Parasitologia 2023, 3(4), 327-347; https://doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia3040032 - 10 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1712
Abstract
The genus Sarcocystis has approximately 200 species that are able to infect homeothermic and poikilothermic animals. So far, 23 Sarcocystis spp. have snakes as definitive hosts (DHs) and mammals and/or reptiles as intermediate hosts (IHs). Some of these species cause disease or even [...] Read more.
The genus Sarcocystis has approximately 200 species that are able to infect homeothermic and poikilothermic animals. So far, 23 Sarcocystis spp. have snakes as definitive hosts (DHs) and mammals and/or reptiles as intermediate hosts (IHs). Some of these species cause disease or even death in their IH. At least two Sarcocystis spp. from snakes have relevance in public health. Sarcocystis nesbitti causes serious myopathy in humans, and S. singaporensis is lethal for rats and was successfully tested in the biological control of these rodents. Molecular identification was not reported for half of Sarcocystis spp. shed by snakes. For some snake species, their role as DHs for Sarcocystis spp. is totally unknown, including certain snakes which are bred as companion animals. The aim of this review is to discuss the role of snakes as DHs or IHs of Sarcocystis spp. and the future directions for the identification of the parasites and the elucidation of their life cycles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sarcocystis in Domestic and Wildlife Animals)
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