Infection with Sarcosytis spp parasites can cause problems in both humans and livestock, and while the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can be used for screening, there is no commercially-available kit for testing. Researchers at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia have developed a PCR kit that can be used for screening, detection and identification of the parasite.
People can become infected with Sarcosytis spp, including Sarcosystis hominis and S suihominis, through consumption of undercooked cyst-laden meat from cattle, sheep and goats. In some studies, Sarcosytis spp have been seen were seen in 56% of hamburgers, and 20% of hotdogs and sausages.
Humans can act as hosts for these intracellular protozoan parasites. In humans, the parasites can trigger an inflammatory response, with symptoms including acute myositis, diarrhoea and fever. In animals, the infections are acute and debilitating, resulting in abortion and death or chronic infections with failure to grow or thrive.
Diagnosis is a complex process, including multiple stool samples, or microscopical examination of muscle biopsies. PCR is a highly sensitive and specific alternative. The team from Universiti Teknologi MARA has developed a thermostabilised PCR kit specific for large scale and rapid screening of meat for sarcocystis. This includes buffered salt solution with dNTPs, MgCl and Taq polymerase enzyme. The user just adds templates, primers and PCR grade distilled water and amplifies the DNA.The kit is designed to amplify multiple genes simultaneously.
The test has potential to reduce infections in humans by reducing the amount of infected meat reaching the marketplace, as well as allowing screening of animals before they reach the food chain.