A protozoan was isolated in cell culture from the brain of a free-ranging sea otter with fatal meningoencephalitis. The biological history of this otter, a study animal being monitored via an intraperitoneal radio transmitter, is summarized. Histologically, protozoal parasites were associated with areas of brain inflammation and necrosis in the cerebrum and cerebellum. Morphology and measurements of fixed, Giemsa-stained protozoal zoites growing on coverslips were consistent with Sarcocystis. These parasites reacted only with polyclonal antisera raised against S. neurona on immunohistochemistry. Cell culture-derived zoites reacted strongly with polyclonal antiserum to S. neurona on indirect fluorescent antibody tests. Amplification of portions of the 18S ribosomal DNA and the adjacent first internal transcribed spacer were performed. The resulting sequences were compared with published sequences from similar apicomplexan protozoa. This isolate (SO SN1), was indistinguishable from S. neurona, based on parasite morphology, antigenic reactivity and molecular characterization.
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