U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in J. Parasitol., 89(4), 2003, pp. 716–720. © American Society of Parasitologists 2003.


Sarcocystis neurona, Neospora caninum, N. hughesi, and Toxoplasma gondii are 4 related coccidians considered to be associated with encephalomyelitis in horses. The source of infection for N. hughesi is unknown, whereas opossums, dogs, and cats are the definitive hosts for S. neurona, N. caninum, and T. gondii, respectively. Seroprevalence of these coccidians in 276 wild horses from central Wyoming outside the known range of the opossum (Didelphis virginiana) was determined. Antibodies to T. gondii were found only in 1 of 276 horses tested with the modified agglutination test using 1: 25, 1:50, and 1:500 dilutions. Antibodies to N. caninum were found in 86 (31.1%) of the 276 horses tested with the Neospora agglutination test—the titers were 1:25 in 38 horses, 1:50 in 15, 1:100 in 9, 1:200 in 8, 1:400 in 4, 1:800 in 2, 1:1,600 in 2, 1:3,200 in 2, and 1:12,800 in 1. Antibodies to S. neurona were assessed with the serum immunoblot; of 276 horses tested, 18 had antibodies considered specific for S. neurona. Antibodies to S. neurona also were assessed with the S. neurona direct agglutination test (SAT). Thirty-nine of 265 horses tested had SAT antibodies—in titers of 1:50 in 26 horses and 1:100 in 13. The presence of S. neurona antibodies in horses in central Wyoming suggests that either there is cross-reactivity between S. neurona and some other infection or a definitive host other than opossum is the source of infection. In a retrospective study, S. neurona antibodies were not found by immunoblot in the sera of 243 horses from western Canada outside the range of D. virginiana.