In the United States, negligible rates of zoonotic sarcocystosis occur in feral swine that, by contrast, frequently harbour infections with Sarcocystis miescheriana, a related parasite contracted from canids.
Transmission of pathogens between domestic and wild life animals plays an important role in epidemiology. Feral pig populations are increasing and expanding in the USA, and may constitute a risk to non-biosecure domestic pig facilities by serving as reservoirs for pathogens. We surveyed, for Sarcocystis infection, the myocardium of 1006 feral pigs (Sus scrofa) trapped or hunted in 29 states during the Comprehensive Feral Swine Disease Surveillance Program of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services unit during 2012-2014. Sarcocysts were detected in histological sections of 25% (251/1006) of myocardium with an average parasitic load/intensity of infection of 3.03 sarcocysts/section (1.5×0.7 cm), and higher prevalence of myocarditis in severe infections. Microscopic examination of pepsin digests of 147 hearts revealed a higher prevalence of Sarcocystis bradyzoites (49%, 72/147) than when diagnosed by histology. A fragment of Sarcocystis 18 S rRNA was amplified and digested with a restriction endonuclease, revealing a pattern consistent with Sarcocystis miescheriana in all 44 selected samples. Sequencing 31 of these 44 isolates confirmed their correspondence to S. miescheriana. Thus, S. miescheriana infection, but not the zoonotic parasite Sarcocystis suihominis, appears to be prevalent and widespread in feral pigs in the USA.