Sarcocystosis FAQs


What is sarcocystosis?

Sarcocystosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Sarcocystis. There are numerous species of Sarcocystis. This disease usually affects animals but also can also cause disease in humans. Two types of the disease can occur, one type causes diarrhea, mild fever, and vomiting (intestinal type, for example infection caused by S. hominis and S. suihominis), and the other type causes muscle pain, transitory edema, and fever (muscular type). Most people infected with Sarcocystis do not have symptoms.

How does one become infected?

In the intestinal type of sarcosystosis, people become infected when they eat undercooked meat containing the parasite. In the muscular type, people become infected by ingesting the form of the parasite that has been passed in animal feces (most likely by inadvertently ingesting the parasite when it has contaminated water or food).

Where is sarcocystosis found?

Sarcocystosis occurs in tropical or subtropical countries. Muscular sarcocystosis has most often been reported from countries in Southeast Asia.

How is it diagnosed?

For intestinal sarcocystosis (S. hominis and S. suihominis), diagnosis is made by the observation of oocysts or sporocysts in stool. For muscular sacrocystosis, diagnosis is made by the finding of sarcocysts in tissue specimens.

Is sarcocystosis be transmitted from person to person?


How can I prevent sarcocystosis?

While traveling, you should follow food and water precautions and practice good hygiene.

Drink and use safe water
  • Use bottled water with unbroken seals or water that has been boiled or filtered to make it safe. Water purification tablets and chlorine products may not kill Sarcocystis.
  • Bring your water to a complete boil for 1 minute.
  • Use safe water to brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, and make ice.
  • Clean food preparation areas and kitchenware with soap and safe water and let dry completely before reuse.
  • Store water in a clean, covered container.
  • Do not use piped water sources that may be contaminated.
  • Do not drink beverages sold in cups or bags or use ice if you are not sure the ice was made with safe water.
  • Do not swim in fresh water that may be contaminated.

More on: Healthy Water

Eat safe food
  • Cook all meat, including wild game meat (ground and whole cuts, excluding poultry) to 160° Fahrenheit or 71° Celsius (especially pork and beef). Use a meat thermometer to determine that the meat has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Cook poultry – whole cuts and ground — to 165° F (74° C).

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Wash your hands
  • Wash your hands with soap and safe water. If you do not have soap, use an alcohol-based (60%) hand cleaner.
  • Wash your hands before you eat or prepare food, before feeding your children, after using the toilet, after cleaning your child’s bottom, and after taking care of someone ill with diarrhea.

More on: Handwashing

Use toilets
  • Use toilets or other sanitation systems, like chemical toilets, to dispose of feces.
  • Clean toilets and surfaces contaminated with feces using a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.
  • Do not defecate in any body of water.
Practice household hygiene
  • Clean up the areas you eat in and wash in.
  • Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes at least 100 feet (about 30 meters )away from drinking water sources.

What is the Treatment?

Currently, there is no proven treatment for either intestinal or muscular sarcocystosis.

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This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

Page last reviewed: September 18, 2020