Biology and Life Cycle

Sarcocystis spp. are obligate two-host parasites, usually requiring a herbivorous intermediate host and a carnivorous final host. The specificity of these parasites is usually greater for the intermediate host than for the final host. Either host might be infected simultaneously with several species of Sarcocystis.

For Sarcocystis hominis, domestic cattle are the intermediate hosts; and for Sarcocystis suihominis, domestic swine are the intermediate hosts. Human and such nonhuman primates as cynomolgus and rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees serve as final hosts, which become infected by eating mature cysts containing zoites found in meat. The parasite undergoes development to the sexually reproducing stage in the lamnia propria of the small intestine. The offspring of the sexually distinct male and female gametes are called sporocysts (containing the infective sporozoite stage), which passes out in the feces. Cattle and pigs become infected when they ingest the sporocyst-containing sporozoites. After a complex migration and a sexual reproduction phase, a second-generation stage, termed the merozoite, invades the host's muscles where it develops to the cyst stage.

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