Isolation and characterization of two parasitic protozoa from a pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) with meningoencephalomyelitis

M. A. Miller, K. Sverlow, P. R. Crosbie, B. C. Barr, Linda J Lowenstine, F. M. Gulland, A. Packham, Patricia A Conrad

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106 Scopus citations


Two species of protozoans were isolated from a harbor seal with fatal meninogoencephalitis. Serologic reactivity was detected to both Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii. Parasites associated with brain inflammation and necrosis reacted only with immunohistochemical stains utilizing polyclonal antisera raised against Sarcocystis neurona. However, 2 distinct parasites were observed in cell cultures derived from the seal's brain tissue. These parasites were separated by mouse passage and limiting dilution. Purified zoites from 1 isolate (HS1) reacted strongly with polyclonal antiserum to S. neurona and with the harbor seal's own serum (1:2,560 for each) on indirect immunoflourescent antibody tests (IFAT), but weakly to antisera to T. gondii and Neospora caninum (1:40). Zoites from the second isolate (HS2) reacted positively with T. gondii polyclonal antiserum (1:81,920) and with the harbor seal's owm serum (1:640), but weakly to S. neurona and N. caninum antisera (1:80 or less). Amplification and sequence analysis of protozoal DNA encoding portions of the 18s ribosomal RNA (18s rDNA) and the adjacent first internal transcribed spacer (ITS1) were performed for both isolates, and resulting sequences were compared to those from similar protozoans. Based on molecular characterization, parasite morphology, serologic reactivity, histology, and immunohistochemistry, HS1 was indistinguishable from S. neurona, and HS2 was indistinguishable from T. gondii.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)816-822
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Parasitology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology


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