Sarcocystis neurona causes encephalomyelitis in many species of mammals and is the most important cause of neurologic disease in the horse. Its complete life cycle is unknown, particularly its development and localization in the intermediate host. Recently, the raccoon (Procyon lotor) was recognized as a natural intermediate host of S. neurona. In the present study, migration and development of S. neurona was studied in 10 raccoons that were fed S. neurona sporocysts from experimentally infected opossums; 4 raccoons served as controls. Raccoons were examined at necropsy 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 14, 15, 22, 37, and 77 days after feeding on sporocysts (DAFS). Tissue sections of most of the organs were studied histologically and reacted with anti–S. neurona–specific polyclonal rabbit serum in an immunohistochemical test. Parasitemia was demonstrated in peripheral blood of raccoons 3 and 5 DAFS. Individual zoites were seen in histologic sections of intestines of raccoons euthanized 1, 3, and 5 DAFS. Schizonts and merozoites were seen in many tissues 7 to 22 DAFS, particularly in the brain. Sarcocysts were seen in raccoons killed 22 DAFS. Sarcocysts at 22 DAFS were immature and seen only in skeletal muscle. Mature sarcocysts were seen in all skeletal samples, particularly in the tongue of the raccoon 77 DAFS; these sarcocysts were infective to laboratory-raised opossums. This is the first report of the complete development of S. neurona schizonts and sarcocysts in a natural intermediate host.
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