The effect of inoculation dose of Sarcocystis neurona sporocysts on the development of clinical neurologic disease in horses was investigated. Twenty-four seronegative weanling horses were subjected to the natural stress of transport and then randomly assigned to 6 treatment groups of 4 horses each. Horses were then immediately inoculated with either 102, 103, 104, 105, or 106 S. neurona sporocysts or placebo using nasogastric tube and housed indoors. Weekly neurologic examinations were performed by a blinded observer. Blood was collected weekly for antibody determination by Western blot analysis. Cerebrospinal fluid was collected before inoculation and before euthanasia for S. neurona antibody determination. Horses were killed and necropsied between 4 and 5 wk after inoculation. Differences were detected among dose groups based on seroconversion times, severity of clinical neurologic signs, and presence of microscopic lesions. Seroconversion of challenged horses was observed as early as 14 days postinfection in the 106 sporocyst dose group. Mild to moderate clinical signs of neurologic disease were produced in challenged horses from all groups, with the most consistent signs seen in the 106 sporocyst dose group. Histologic lesions suggestive of S. neurona infection were detected in 4 of the 20 horses fed sporocysts. Parasites were not detected in equine tissues by light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, or bioassay in gamma-interferon gene knockout mice. Control horses remained seronegative for the duration of the study and had no histologic evidence of protozoal infection.
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