Recurrent outbreaks of muscular sarcocystosis among tourists visiting islands in Malaysia have focused international attention on sarcocystosis, a disease once considered rare in humans. Sarcocystis species require two hosts, definitive and intermediate, to complete their life cycle. Humans can serve as definitive hosts, with intestinal sarcocystosis for two species acquired from eating undercooked meat: Sarcocystis hominis, from beef, and Sarcocystis suihominis, from pork. Symptoms such as nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea vary widely depending on the number of cysts ingested but appear more severe with pork than with beef. Humans serve as intermediate hosts for Sarcocystis nesbitti, a species with a reptilian definitive host, and possibly other unidentified species, acquired by ingesting sporocysts from feces-contaminated food or water and the environment; infections have an early phase of development in vascular endothelium, with illness that is difficult to diagnose; clinical signs include fever, headache, and myalgia. Subsequent development of intramuscular cysts is characterized by myositis. Presumptive diagnosis based on travel history to tropical regions, elevated serum enzyme levels, and eosinophilia is confirmed by finding sarcocysts in muscle biopsy specimens. There is no vaccine or confirmed effective antiparasitic drug for muscular sarcocystosis, but anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce symptoms. Prevention strategies are also discussed.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.