Invasive American mink (Neovison vison) as potential definitive host of Sarcocystis elongata, S. entzerothi, S. japonica, S. truncata and S. silva using different cervid species as intermediate hosts.
Canids and scavenger birds were shown to act as definitive hosts of numerous Sarcocystis species using members of the Cervidae family as an intermediate host, whereas definitive hosts spreading closely related S. elongata, S. entzerothi, S. japonica, S. matsuoae, S. rangiferi, S. truncata, S. silva and S. tarandi remain unknown. In the current study, the intestine samples of 40 American minks (Neovison vison) were molecularly tested for the presence of the above-mentioned Sarcocystis spp. Species-specific PCR of cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (cox1) fragments and subsequent sequencing revealed the presence of sporocysts/oocysts of five species, S. elongata (n=2), S. entzerothi (n=10), S. japonica (n=4), S. silva (n=13) and S. truncata (n=21) in the analysed samples. Sarcocystis infection was confirmed in 32/40 (80%) examined samples. In addition, half of the infected animals (50%) were infected with multiple Sarcocystis species suggesting that American minks had access to meat of different deer species, such as roe deer, red deer and sika deer. This causes concern about compliance of hunters and game processing companies with game waste management rules. Further research on the involvement of mustelids in the transmission of various Sarcocystis spp. from different geographical locations is needed.