Abstract

Sarcocystis infections have been reported from the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), but the species have not been named. Here we propose a new name Sarcocystis cafferi from the African buffalo. Histological examination of heart (92), skeletal muscle (36), and tongue (2) sections from 94 buffalos from the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa, and a review of the literature revealed only 1 species of Sarcocystis in the African buffalo. Macrocysts were up to 12 mm long and 6 mm wide and were located in the neck muscles and overlying connective tissue. They were pale yellow; shaped like a lychee fruit stone or cashew nut; turgid or flaccid and oval to round (not fusiform). By light microscopy (LM) the sarcocyst wall was relatively thin. By scanning electron microscopy (SEM), the sarcocyst wall had a mesh-like structure with irregularly shaped villar protrusions (vp) that were of different sizes and folded over the sarcocyst wall. The entire surfaces of vp were covered with papillomatous structures. By transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the sarcocyst wall was up to 3.6 μm thick and had highly branched villar protrusions that were up to 3 μm long. The villar projections contained filamentous tubular structures, most of which were parallel to the long axis of the projections, but some tubules criss-crossed, especially at the base. Granules were absent from these tubules. Longitudinally cut bradyzoites were 12.1 × 2.7 μm in size, had a long convoluted mitochondrion, and only 2 rhoptries. Phylogenetic analysis of 18S rRNA and cytochrome C oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene sequences indicated that this Sarcocystis species is very closely related to, but distinct from, Sarcocystis fusiformis and Sarcocystis hirsuta. Thus, morphological findings by LM, SEM, and TEM together with molecular phylogenetic data (from 18S rRNA and cox1) confirm that the Sarcocystis species in the African buffalo is distinct from S. fusiformis and has therefore been named Sarcocystis cafferi.

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