Experimental infection of ponies with Sarcocystis fayeri and differentiation from Sarcocystis neurona infections in horses
Sarcocystis neurona and Sarcocystis fayeri infections are common in horses in the Americas. Their antemortem diagnosis is important because the former causes a neurological disorder in horses, whereas the latter is considered nonpathogenic. There is a concern that equine antibodies to S. fayeri might react with S. neurona antigens in diagnostic tests. In this study, 4 ponies without demonstrable serum antibodies to S. neurona by Western immunoblot were used. Three ponies were fed 1 X 10(5) to 1 X 10(7) sporocysts of S. fayeri obtained from dogs that were fed naturally infected horse muscles. All ponies remained asymptomatic until the termination of the experiment, day 79 postinoculation (PI). All serum samples collected were negative for antibodies to S. neurona using the Western blot at the initial screening, just before inoculation with S. fayeri (day 2) and weekly until day 79 PI. Cerebrospinal fluid samples from each pony were negative for S. neurona antibodies. Using the S. neurona agglutination test, antibodies to S. neurona were not detected in 1:25 dilution of sera from any samples, except that from pony no. 4 on day 28; this pony had received 1 X 10(7) sporocysts. Using indirect immunofluorescence antibody tests (IFATs), 7 serum samples were found to be positive for S. neurona antibodies from 1:25 to 1:400 dilutions. Sarcocystis fayeri sarcocysts were found in striated muscles of all inoculated ponies, with heaviest infections in the tongue. All sarcocysts examined histologically appeared to contain only microcytes. Ultrastructurally, S. fayeri sarcocysts could be differentiated from S. neurona sarcocysts by the microtubules (mt) in villar protrusions on sarcocyst walls; in S. fayeri the mt extended from the villar tips to the pellicle of zoites, whereas in S. neurona the mt were restricted to the middle of the cyst wall. Results indicate that horses with S. fayeri infections may be misdiagnosed as being S. neurona infected using IFAT, and further research is needed on the serologic diagnosis of S. neurona infections.