Sarcocystis Public Health Significance

Two types of Sarcocystis infection (sarcocystis) are known in humans. One type is the intramuscular cyst stage probably acquired via feces of a carnivore, and the other type includes intestinal stages that develop after ingestion of raw infected meat. Because the actual sources of infection for the intramuscular cyst stage are unknown and because it is unlikely that human flesh is consumed often enough by carnivores to maintain a human-carnivore cycle in nature, it is hypothesized that such infections are accidental zoonoses, possibly existing in nature in a nonhuman primate-carnivore cycle (3). Because only about 40 such infections have been reported worldwide, most originating in tropical areas, this type of sarcocystosis does not represent a significant public-health problem. Two sources for the human intestinal infection are known: ingestion of raw beef and raw pork. However, little documentation exists regarding their public-health significance. There are several possible reasons for this lack of information. The life cycles and epidemiology of Sarocystis spp. have only recently been described. The sporocyst stage shed in the feces of infected humans is relatively small and often is overlooked in examination of feces. Finally, considering the excellent sanitation system used for disposal of human sewage in the United States, opportunities for infection are probably rare.

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