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. Immunohistochemical examination of sections with S. neurona specific antisera demonstrated developmental stages that divided by endopolygeny and produced numerous merozoites. PCR of brain tissue from the sea otter using primer pairs JNB33/JNB54 resulted in amplification of a 1100 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 [J. Parasitol. 85 (1999) 221]. No PCR product was detected in the brain of a sea otter which had no lesions of encephalitis. Examination of brain sections using T. gondii specific antisera demonstrated tachyzoites and tissue cysts of T. gondii. The lesions induced by T. gondii suggested that the sea otter was suffering from reactivated toxoplasmosis. T. 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. This is apparently the first report of dual S. neurona and T. gondii in a marine mammal.
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Dual Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii infection in a northern sea otter from Washington state, USA