Cats serve as definitive hosts for zoonotic Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that threatens human reproductive health, but they also excrete sporocysts of related protozoan that pose no known human health risk. Here we provide the first definitive evidence for natural infection with the enzootic parasite Sarcocystis muris, one such enzootic parasite. Sporulated Sarcocystis sp. sporocysts were found in rectal contents of an adult feral cat (Felis catus) in Giza, Egypt. After these sporocysts were orally inoculated into 2 Swiss Webster mice, sarcocysts were found to have developed in skeletal muscles 114 days later. As observed through transmission electron microscopy, the cyst wall corresponded to Type 1, and the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane had tiny outpocketing of blebs (<200 nm thick) that were not invaginated into the interior of the cyst; these structures were identical to the sarcocyst wall described for a Costa Rican isolate of S. muris that has served as an experimental model for nearly 4 decades. Two parasite-free cats fed sarcocyst-infected muscles developed patent infections; fully sporulated sporocysts (10–11 × 7.0 μm) were found in the lamina propria of small intestines of cats killed 6 and 7 days postinoculation (PI). Interferon gamma gene knockout (KO) mice were orally inoculated with sporocysts from experimentally infected cats, and their tissues were examined histologically; sarcocysts were found in 5 KO mice killed 87, 115, 196, 196, 196 days PI, but no stages were seen in 5 KO mice 10, 14, 14, 18, and 39 days PI. Bradyzoites were released from intramuscular sarcocysts of a KO mouse killed 115 days PI and orally inoculated into 5 KO mice. No stage of Sarcocystis was found in any organ (including intestinal lamina propria) of KO mice killed 4, 8, 81, 190, and 190 days PI, confirming that the definitive host is required to complete the life cycle even in the case of immunodeficient mice. This is the first confirmation of S. muris infection in a naturally infected cat anywhere.
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