An outbreak of Sarcocystis calchasi encephalitis in multiple psittacine species within an enclosed zoological aviary

Guillermo Rimoldi, Brian Speer, James F X Wellehan, Daniel S. Bradway, Lewis Wright, Drury Reavill, Bradd C. Barr, April Childress, H. L. Shivaprasad, Richard P. Chin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A total of 5 psittacine birds in an enclosed zoological exhibit, including 2 princess parrots and 3 cockatoos of 2 different species, developed severe central nervous system clinical signs over a 2-3-month period and died or were euthanized. Histologically, all birds had a lymphoplasmacytic and histiocytic encephalitis with intralesional protozoa consistent with a Sarcocystis species in addition to intramuscular tissue sarcocysts. By immunohistochemical staining, merozoites in brain and tissue cysts in muscle did not react with polyclonal antisera against Sarcocystis falcatula, Sarcocystis neurona, Toxoplasma gondii, and Neospora caninum, or with a monoclonal antibody to S. neurona. Transmission electron microscopy on sarcocyst tissue cyst walls from 2 birds was morphologically consistent with Sarcocystis calchasi. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing of partial 18S ribosomal RNA from muscle tissue cysts and brain schizonts from 3 birds was consistent with a clade containing S. calchasi and Sarcocystis columbae but could not distinguish these closely related Sarcocystis species. However, PCR amplification and sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer 1 RNA segment in the brain from 2 birds and muscle from 2 birds specifically identified the isolates as S. calchasi. The current report documents that multiple psittacine species are susceptible intermediate hosts of S. calchasi, and that infection can cause encephalitis resulting in significant morbidity and mortality in psittacine aviaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-781
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Aviary
  • encephalitis
  • psittacines
  • Sarcocystis calchasi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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