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Systemic sarcocystosis in a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis).

Veterinary Pathology 47(3):560 (2010) PMID 20375428

A striped skunk with neurological signs was euthanized and examined via necropsy. Histologically, protozoa were found in multiple tissues. Protozoal schizonts measured 15 to 25 mum in diameter and contained 4 to 6 mum crescent-shaped merozoites. Protozoa were associated with necrosis and inflammation in the lung, brain, liver, and nasal epithelium. Immunohistochemistry labeled protozoa strongly positive for Sarcocystis neurona. Polymerase chain reaction-amplified products from the protozoan were 99.6% identical to the corresponding portion of the nuclear small subunit ribosomal RNA gene of S neurona. S neurona origin was further confirmed by amplifying a 451-base pair DNA fragment from the skunk lung, which differed by just 2 or 3 base pairs from the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene of S neurona. Striped skunks act as intermediate and aberrant hosts for S neurona; however, S neurona has rarely been found in extraneural tissues in any species, and systemic sarcocystosis has not been reported in skunks. Additionally, canine distemper virus infection was confirmed with histopathology and immunohistochemistry. Concurrent canine distemper suggests that immunosuppression may have played a role in S neurona infection in this skunk.

DOI: 10.1177/0300985810363720