The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is an intermediate host for Sarcocystis neurona
Striped skunks, initially negative for antibodies to Sarcocystis neurona, formed sarcocysts in skeletal muscles after inoculation with S. neurona sporocysts collected from a naturally infected Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Skunks developed antibodies to S. neurona by immunoblot and muscles containing sarcocysts were fed to laboratory-reared opossums which then shed sporulated Sarcocystis sporocysts in their faeces. Mean dimensions for sporocysts were 11.0 x 7.5 microm and each contained four sporozoites and a residuum. Sarcocysts from skunks and sporocysts from opossums fed infected skunk muscle were identified as S. neurona using PCR and DNA sequence analysis. A 2-month-old, S. neurona-naive pony foal was orally inoculated with 5 x 10(5) sporocysts. Commercial immunoblot for antibodies to S. neurona performed using CSF collected from the inoculated pony was low positive at 4 weeks p.i., positive at 6 weeks p.i., and strong positive at 8 weeks p.i. Gamma-interferon gene knockout mice inoculated with skunk/opossum derived sporocysts developed serum antibodies to S. neurona and clinical neurologic disease. Merozoites of S. neurona present in the lung, cerebrum, and cerebellum of mice were detected by immunohistochemistry using polyclonal antibodies to S. neurona. Based on the results of this study, the striped skunk is an intermediate host of S. neurona.
M A. Cheadle, C A. Yowell, D C. Sellon, Melissa T. Hines, P E. Ginn, A E. Marsh, R J. MacKay, J B. Dame, and E C. Greiner. "The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is an intermediate host for Sarcocystis neurona" International Journal for Parasitology 31.8 (2001): 843-849.
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