Baylisascaris spp. in non-raccoon procyonid hosts and assessment of potential risk of human exposure
Baylisascaris procyonis (Bp) is a large roundworm of the common raccoon (Procyon lotor) which serves as the definitive host. Bp is an important cause of clinical larva migrans, including severe neurological disease, across numerous taxa including humans. Other procyonids, as well as occasionally dogs, can act as definitive hosts for this or other Baylisascaris spp. Many of these animals are becoming more common as household pets, posing a risk to people who come in contact with these animals. We have investigated whether patent Baylisascaris spp. infection exists in captive non-raccoon procyonids and if humans who contact these animals are at risk of infection. Fecal samples from captive animals were examined using standard flotation methods in Sheather’s sugar solution and examined for parasite eggs and oocysts. Fecal samples were provided by pet owners, breeding facilities, and zoos for examination. A standard dosage of fenbendazole was recommended when treatment advice was requested. An epidemiological survey was distributed to assess the risk of human exposure in cases where Baylisascaris eggs were seen. Findings suggest that many zoo facilities and pet owners are aggressive with routine fecal examination and preventive anthelmintic administration. Samples have been examined from 15 kinkajous, 30 coatis, and 23 captive raccoons. The prevalences of Baylisascaris spp. eggs present in the feces of captive coatis, raccoons, and kinkajous were 6.7%, 8.7%, and 13.3%, respectively. This confirms that Baylisascaris spp. infection occurs in captive procyonids other than raccoons. The study found significant evidence that the presence of raccoons is associated with a higher rate of Baylisascaris infection in other procyonids. The questionnaire found a large proportion of respondents had little knowledge of Baylisascaris even though they cared for procyonids which can serve as definitive hosts and that lapses in precautions in working with these animals, their habitats, or feces exist. In conclusion, this study shows that captive non-raccoon procyonids can serve as definitive hosts for Baylisascaris spp. and that a portion of the humans that work with these animals are at risk for exposure to Baylisascaris eggs. These findings call for better education of caretakers, pet owners, and veterinarians who work with non-raccoon procyonids.
Kazacos, Purdue University.
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