Controversy exists concerning whether cattle and water buffalo sustain infections with cysts of distinct arrays of species in the genus Sarcocystis. In particular, morphologically similar parasites have been alternately ascribed to Sarcocystis cruzi or to Sarcocystis levinei, depending on their occurrence in cattle or water buffalo. We used light and transmission electron microscopy, genetic analysis, and experimental infections of definitive canine hosts to determine whether consistent differences could be identified from parasites derived from several natural infections of each host, examining several tissue types (esophagus, skeletal muscles, and heart). Cysts derived from cattle and water buffalo shared similar structure; variation among 18S rRNA sequences did not segregate consistently according to intermediate host type; parasites derived from cattle and water buffalo induced similar outcomes in the canine definitive host. One cattle specimen harbored unusually large (macroscopic) sarcocysts which nonetheless conformed to previously reported ultrastructural and genetic features of S. cruzi. Finding no consistent basis to differentiate between them, we conclude that the parasites infecting each host and tissue type correspond to S. cruzi. In our sample, no phylogenetically distinct taxon was sampled which might correspond to a distinct taxon previously described as S. levinei. Either that taxon was missed by our sampling effort, or it may represent a junior synonym to S. cruzi, which would then cycle between dogs and a broader range of intermediate bovine hosts than was previously considered.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases