A Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsii) was found on the central California coast with neurologic signs and labored breathing, which were unresponsive to treatment. Necropsy revealed a nonsuppurative necrotizing meningoencephalitis, a multilocular thymic cyst, and nonsuppurative cystitis and renal pyelitis. Microscopic examination revealed protozoans in the brain, thymic cyst, and bladder mucosa. Ultrastructurally, the protozoal tachyzoites were different from those of Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii, and Sarcocystis neurona; the rhoptries were small and had electron-dense contents, and the organism divided by endodyogeny. Specific antibodies were not detected in serum using agglutination (N. caninum, T. gondii) and immunoblot assays (S. neurona). Immunohistochemistry for these organisms was negative. Polymerase chain reaction on brain tissue using specific primers did not amplify T. gondii deoxyribonucleic acid. The meningoencephalitis in this seal thus appears to have been caused by a novel protozoan.

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