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Morphologic and molecular identification of three macroscopic Sarcocystis species infecting domestic sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus) in Egypt

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In a survey study on the macroscopic species of Sarcocystis infecting domestic sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus) in Egypt, the macrosarcocysts of Sarcocystis gigantea and Sarcocystis medusiformis were detected in the carcasses of 33 domestic sheep out of a total of 250 (13.20%), whereas Sarcocystis hirsuta macrosarcocysts were found in 17 out of 150 cattle (11.33%) slaughtered at the municipal abattoirs of two different provinces in Egypt. The sarcocysts of each species were thoroughly described morphologically through gross inspection, histopathologic and transmission electron microscopic (TEM) examination. By TEM, S. gigantea primary cyst wall was 6–7.5 μm thick and had irregular highly branched cauliflower-like villar protrusions (VP).The VP contained microtubules (mt) and multiple electron dense granules (edg) that were dispersed inside the cores of the branched VP. Besides, the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (PVM) had minute blister-like invaginations all over the entire surface of the sarcocyst. S. medusiformis cyst had a thin sarcocyst wall (~2 μm thick) as compared to that of S. gigantea. The cyst wall had trapezoidal or nearly pyramidal VP that were surrounded by thick PVM in addition to a ground substance GS that contained electron-dense fine particles. S. hirsuta sarcocyst wall was 7–9 μm thick and possessed rhomboid-shaped VP that contained microtubules (mt) and electron-dense granules (edg) of variable sizes. The edg were arranged in rows and running parallel to the longitudinal axis of the protrusions. The VP had characteristic narrow neck-like constrictions at their bases, dilated middle portions, and tapered distal ends. The detected macrosarcocysts were eventually confirmed by molecular characterization on the levels of 18S rRNA, 28S rRNA, and Cox1 sequences. Phylogenetic analyses based on the sequences of the 18S rRNA and Cox1 genetic markers gave rise to robust associations of the currently identified isolates of S. gigantea, S. medusiformis, and S. hirsuta within a major clade of Sarcocystis species with felines as presumed or known definitive hosts.

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Authors and Affiliations



Ahmed El-Morsey conceptualized and designed the study, collected samples, morphologic and molecular diagnosis of the three Sarcocystis species, analyzed data, and wrote the manuscript. Wlied abdo performed the histopathology and assisted in data analysis and diagnosis. Attia A. Abou Zaid and Shimaa S.GH. Sorour collected samples and assisted in study design, survey data collection, and identification of Sarcocystis species.

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Correspondence to Ahmed El-Morsey.

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The muscle specimens used in the current study were collected from sheep and cattle carcasses according to local standard regulations and laws of the two abattoirs in El-Mahalla El-Kobra and Sedi-Salem cities belonging to Gharbia and Kafr El-Sheikh provinces, respectively, Egypt.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Section Editor: Daniel K Howe

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El-Morsey, A., Abdo, W., Zaid, A.A.A. et al. Morphologic and molecular identification of three macroscopic Sarcocystis species infecting domestic sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus) in Egypt. Parasitol Res 120, 637–654 (2021).

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