Neospora caninum is a coccidian parasite that was identified as a species in 1988. Prior to this, it was misclassified as Toxoplasma gondii due to structural similarities. The genome sequence of Neospora caninum is determined by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Neospora caninum is an important cause of spontaneous abortion in infected livestock.
Neospora caninum has a heteroxenous life cycle, with the reproductive stage occurring in the intestine of the definitive host, which is the dog. Other carnivores, for example, the fox, may also be definitive hosts. Oocysts passed in the feces of the definitive host are ingested by an intermediate host, for example, cattle, and form tissue cysts. Transplacental transmission, that is passage from mother to offspring during pregnancy, has been shown to occur in dogs, cats, sheep and cattle. Neospora caninum does not appear to be infectious to humans. In dogs, Neospora caninum can cause neurological signs, especially in congenitally infected puppies, where it can form cysts in the central nervous system.
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