Sarcocystis is a genus of protozoa. Species in this genus are parasites that are infecting reptiles and birds.
The joy and peace birds give us as pets and as breeders in a hobby situation is shattered by losses. This speaks to the need for proper avian medical research and development of vaccines to prevent such staggering losses.
At this time, no vaccine is available, nor to my knowledge is such a vaccine even being researched by the avian medical community. Unfortunately, fundraising for major avian research took a major nose-dive this year, and there are very few funds available as a result.
Sarcocystis falcalula is a protozoan coccidian parasite that reproduces in the intestine of the opossum. Infective particles are shed from the opossum for up to 100 days. These oocysts can be transferred into your aviary by cockroaches and probably other insects and vermin.
Infections are usually peracute (really, really fast), and the bird may appear normal one morning and dead that afternoon. Cockatoos died 10 to 14 days after inoculation with the parasite. Pulmonary edema with hemorrhage is the most consistent postmortem finding. This finding always needs to be confirmed as Sarcocystis infection by a competent avian pathologist.
Thus the most important means of prevention is to not allow opossums or cockroaches in your aviary. This is a tall order in many places. For years, most of us assumed that this was largely a problem for the deep Southeastern U.S. We have confirmed cases all over Kentucky, Southern Indiana, Southern Ohio and Western Virginia. In short, anywhere there are opossums there is Sarcocystis.
Unfortunately, no drug will stop the peracute deaths once the bird is infected. Future deaths can be prevented in non-infected birds by the use of trimethoprim-sulfaidazine and pyrimethanamine combination drug therapy for 30 days.