New Study on Reducing Roundworm Larvae in Raccoon Latrines Published.

Raccoon kit. Courtesy National Park Service.

Dr. L. Kristen Page of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, lead researcher on a new study focusing on Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms, suggests in a new study published in the January 2011 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases that a baiting strategy combined with latrine removal can effectively decrease B. procyonis egg levels at latrines.  The study refers to current baiting strategies that have effectively controlled rabies and decreased the prevalence of zoonotic parasites.  Raccoon latrines are commonly found near homes, and Dr. Page suggests that implementation of baiting strategies, in conjunction with traditional raccoon management on public lands, could reduce the risk for transmission on nearby private properties.

Dr. L. Kristen Page, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, teaches courses in ecology and animal ecology in the environmental studies curriculum. A former environmental biologist in private industry, Dr. Page also previously served on the faculty of Purdue University before coming to Wheaton, Dr. Page's particular research interests are in ecological parasitology, disease transmission, and parasite genetics. Her numerous scientific publications have appeared in some of the world's leading scientific journals, including Oikos, Journal of Mammalogy, and The Canadian Journal of Zoology.

The study notes that up to 82% of adult raccoons and 90% of juvenile raccoons are infected.  Mature worms produce thousands of eggs daily, and these eggs are eliminated through raccoon feces and accumulate at raccoon latrines.  The eggs remain infective for many years.  Nevertheless, reported cases of human B procyonis roundworm infections are rare.  Only 18 known human cases have occurred, all in North America, but prevention is a public health priority because of the severity of the resulting neurologic disease. 

Children, and especially toddlers, are considered to be at greatest risk because they tend to put things in their mouths, unfortunately, the infection generally cannot be detected before it’s too late.  Once the worm’s larvae have entered the host, they usually cause blindness, permanent neurological damage, and death. 

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