General description
  • Sarco is caused by a group of protozoan organisms (Sarcocystis spp.).
  • Sheep are the intermediate hosts and cats are the final hosts.
  • Sheep are infected by eating sporocysts in cat faeces. The sporocysts hatch in the sheep gut and the parasite migrates through the gut wall and into tissues and muscles where it forms a living cyst, awaiting consumption by a carnivore.
  • Meat infected with sarcocystis is condemned as unfit for human consumption. Losses of $0.6 million per year due to sarcocystis condemnations have been estimated.
  • The parasite is common in cooler climates.
Clinical signs
  • Sheep will show no clinical signs.
  • Cysts cannot be detected in live animals but are readily seen by examining the animal at the abattoir.
  • Sarcocystis cysts are white and resemble grains of rice.
  • They can occur in the oesophagus, tongue, diaphragm and skeletal muscle.
  • There is no treatment for the cysts in sheep.
  • Revolves around cat control on sheep pastures.
  • Keep livestock feed secure from access by cats.
  • Restrict domestic cats (and dogs) from access to offal and uncooked sheep meat.
  • Dispose of carcasses quickly and effectively to prevent access by predators, including cats.
  • Control feral cat populations.
Learn more