Sarcocystis neurona is the most important cause of a neurologic disease in horses, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). The complete life cycle of S. neurona, including the description of sarcocysts and intermediate hosts, has not been completed until now. Opossums (Didelphis spp.) are definitive hosts, and horses and other mammals are aberrant hosts. In the present study, laboratory-raised domestic cats (Felis domesticus) were fed sporocysts from the intestine of a naturally infected opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Microscopic sarcocysts, with a maximum size of 700 × 50 µm, developed in the muscles of the cats. The DNA of bradyzoites released from sarcocysts was confirmed as S. neurona. Laboratory-raised opossums (D. virginiana) fed cat muscles containing the sarcocysts shed sporocysts in their feces. The sporocysts were ∼10–12 × 6.5–8.0 µm in size. Gamma interferon knockout mice fed sporocysts from experimentally infected opossums developed clinical sarcocystosis, and S. neurona was identified in their tissues using S. neurona-specific polyclonal rabbit serum. Two seronegative ponies fed sporocysts from an experimentally-infected opossum developed S. neurona-specific antibodies within 14 days.
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