Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Morphological and molecular characterization of Sarcocystis arctica-like sarcocysts from the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) from Alaska, USA

July 1, 2017

The muscles of herbivores commonly harbor sarcocysts of parasites belonging to species in the genus Sarcocystis, but such muscle parasites are rare in carnivores. Here, we report Sarcocystis arctica-like sarcocysts in muscles of Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) from Alaska, USA, for the first time. The tongues of 56 foxes were examined for Sarcocystis infection using several methods. Sarcocystis bradyzoites were detected in pepsin digests of 13 (23.2%), and sarcocysts were found in histological sections stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE) of 9 (16.0%). By light microscopy, sarcocysts were up to 4 mm long and up to 245 μm wide. In HE-stained sections, the sarcocyst wall appeared smooth and up to 1.5 μm thick without visible protrusions. By transmission electron microscopy, the sarcocyst wall had a wavy parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (pvm) folded as pleomorphic villar protrusions (vp), sometimes with anastomoses of villar tips. The vp and the ground substance (gs) layer were smooth and without microtubules. The gs was up to 2.0 μm thick. The total width of the wall including vp and the gs was up to 4.0 μm. The vp were up to 3.0 μm long and most closely resembled “type 9c.” All sarcocysts were mature and contained numerous 8.1 × 2.1 μm sized bradyzoites. Molecular characterization (at 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, ITS-1, and cox1) showed the highest affinity for S. arctica of the Arctic fox (V. lagopus) from Norway. In the present investigation, we provide evidence that sarcocysts are common in tongues of Alaskan Arctic foxes suggesting that these carnivores are serving as intermediate hosts, and we also provide ultrastructure of S. arctica from the Arctic fox for the first time.

Related Content