Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 25, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii are single celled parasites of animals. The former is transmitted via infected feces of opossums and the latter by cats. Both parasites are widely distributed in the Americas. Scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and Virginia Tech; Blacksburg report dual infection by these parasites causing encephalitis in a sea otter. Results indicate contamination of sea water by these organisms. The results will be of use to parasitologists, veterinarians and wildlife biologists.
Dual Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii infection was observed in a Northern sea otter from Washington, USA. The animal was found stranded, convulsed, and died shortly thereafter. Encephalitis caused by both S. neurona and T. gondii was demonstrated in histological sections of brain stained with parasite specific antisera. The lesions induced by T. gondii suggested that the sea otter was suffering from reactivated toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii was isolated in mice inoculated with brain tissue. A cat that was fed infected mouse brain tissue excreted T. gondii oocysts which were infective for mice. PCR of brain tissue from the sea otter using primer pairsJNB33/JNB54 resulted in amplification of a 1,100 bp product. This PCR product was cut in to 884 and 216 bp products by Dra I but was not cut by Hinf I indicating that it was S. neurona. No PCR product was detected in the brain of a sea otter which had no lesions of encephalitis.