Sarcocystosis in wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) in Patagonia, Argentina.

Elizabeth Chang Reissig, Gastón Moré, Adriana Massone, Francisco A Uzal,

Parasitology research, January 18, 2016

Sarcocystis spp. are protozoan parasites with a heteroxenous life cycle, which produce cysts in the muscle of herbivorous animals. In these animal species, sarcocystosis is frequently asymptomatic, although it may occur with high prevalence. Seven Sarcocystis spp. have been described in red deer (Cervus elephus). The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of sarcocystosis, and to perform the morphological and molecular characterization of Sarcocystis spp. found in wild red deer of the Nahuel Huapi National Park (NHNP), Patagonia, Argentina. Full necropsies of 62 red deer killed by hunters in the NHNP and neighboring areas were performed. Samples of heart and skeletal muscle were examined histologically and selected samples were also examined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), PCR and sequencing. Sarcocystis spp. thin walled cysts were detected in 62 % (38/62) of heart, and in 22 % (3/14) of skeletal muscle samples examined histologically. TEM revealed a smooth and thin cyst wall (≤1 μm), with scarce and separated ribbon-like protrusions. A total of three partial and one full 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences were obtained, and showed the highest identity (≥99 %) with Sarcocystis taeniata, a species described in moose (Alces alces). The morphological and molecular results indicate that red deer in Argentina are frequently infected with S. taeniata, a species for which the definitive host is unknown. The present results also confirm that Sarcocystis spp. using cervids as intermediate host are not host-specific. Further studies are needed to improve the epidemiological knowledge of Sarcocystosis in red deer.

Pubmed Link: 26779923