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Geographic expansion of Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms, Florida, USA.

To the Editor: Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms are common parasites of raccoons (Procyon lotor) in several regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. These parasites are increasingly recognized as a cause of larva migrans in humans, an infection that often results in severe neurologic sequelae or death. In addition, larva migrans has been documented in [approximately equal to]90 species of wild and domestic birds and mammals. In the United States, B. procyonis roundworms are most prevalent in the midwestern, northeastern, and Pacific western states. Numerous surveillance studies have been conducted in the southeastern United States, and B. procyonis roundworms are most common in the mountainous regions of Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia (1-4). Geographic expansion of B. procyonis roundworms has been recently documented in Georgia. In 2002, 22% of raccoons sampled in DeKalb County, Georgia, a highly urbanized area near Atlanta, were positive for the parasite (5), and recently, 10% of raccoons sampled in Clarke County, Georgia, were positive (6). Whether this expansion is due to natural spread of the parasite among raccoons or to translocations of infected raccoons into naive areas is unclear. We document expansion of B. procyonis roundworms into northwestern and southeastern Florida.

In 2006 and 2007, nine ascarids (>3 inches) were collected from the feces of an unrecorded number of raccoons admitted to a rehabilitation center in northern Florida. In September 2008, December 2009, and June 2010, one ascarid each was found in the feces of a 4- and a 6-month-old raccoon from Leon County, Florida, and a 6-month-old raccoon from Wakulla County, Florida, after routine treatment with pyrantel pamoate (20 mg/ kg). In July 2010, a juvenile (6-month-old) raccoon from Broward County, Florida, which had been admitted to a rehabilitation center, passed several ascarids (2 collected for testing) in its feces after ivermectin treatment (0.2 mg/mL) for mange. The 14 ascarids were preserved in 70% ethanol, and adult males were identified as Baylisascaris spp. on the basis of their morphologic characteristics (perianal rough patches). The ascarids were subsequently confirmed as B. procyonis by sequence analysis of the 5.8S rRNA gene or the internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-1 and ITS-2 regions (7,8). The complete sequences of the 5.8S rRNA gene and ITS-2 region from 2 ascarids from northern Florida and 1 from southern Florida were identical to B. procyonis sequences (GenBank accession nos. AJ001501 and AB051231, respectively). ITS-1 sequences from the 2 ascarids from northern and southern Florida were 99.1% (424/428; AB053230) to 100% identical (AJ00745 and ascarids from Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas [6]), respectively, to B. procyonis sequences.

Several previous studies did not detect B. procyonis roundworms in raccoons or latrine sites in central Florida (n = 51 from Glades, Highlands, Hillsborough, and Orange counties), southern Florida (n = 90 from around Miami and n = 64 fecal samples on Key Largo), and numerous counties throughout Florida (n = 177) (1 , 3, 9). Historically, B. procyonis roundworms have been absent throughout most of the Southeast, but the parasite was recently detected in north-central Georgia (5,6). How the species became established in Florida remains unclear. Establishment could have resulted from natural dispersal of infected raccoons from B. procyonis-endemic areas; however, recent examination of several raccoon populations in southern Georgia failed to detect such infections (6). Alternatively, the parasites could have been introduced from the movement of infected raccoons, exotic pets (e.g., kinkajou [Potos flavus]), or natural wildlife intermediate hosts (1).

Additionally, because domestic dogs can serve as definitive hosts, an infected dog from a B. procyonis-endemic area may have passed eggs into the environment (1). Veterinarians in Florida should be aware of this possible zoonosis and carefully examine ascarid eggs detected in fecal specimens because B. procyonis-infected dogs often have mixed infections with Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina, or both, which have morphologically similar eggs (1). Physicians, veterinarians, and wildlife biologists in Florida should be aware of this serious pathogen and the likelihood its range will increase, as highlighted by the recent detection of B. procyonis roundworms in a kinkajou from southern Florida (K.P. Kazacos et al., unpub. data).

This study also highlights the importance of wildlife rehabilitation centers as resources for the study of wildlife/zoonotic diseases. Animals admitted to rehabilitation centers are often ill or injured, which may increase pathogen shedding or transmission. Additionally, young raccoons are likely to be infected with B. procyonis roundworms, and kits as young as 3 months of age can be patent. Numerous fatal B. procyonis larva migrans infections have occurred among animals in rehabilitation centers and zoological parks. These infections were likely acquired when animals were housed in enclosures previously occupied by infected raccoons or when bedding or food became contaminated with B. procyonis-infected raccoon feces. In B. procyonis-endemic areas, cages used to house raccoons should be thoroughly decontaminated by flaming, or cages should be dedicated for use by raccoons. Because B. procyonis roundworms can spread to other animals, persons in contact with raccoons should be alert to potential transmission routes and apply appropriate biosecurity procedures.

This work was supported by a grant from the Southeast Center for Emerging Biologic Threats and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emily L. Blizzard, Michael J. Yabsley, Margaret F. Beck, and Stefan Harsch

Author affiliations: University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA (E.L. Blizzard, M.J. Yabsley); Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Tallahassee, Florida, USA (M.F. Beck); and SPCA Wildlife Care Center, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA (S. Harsch)

DOI: 10.3201/eid1611.100549

References

(1.) Kazacos KR. Baylisascaris procyonis and related species. In Samuel WM, Pybus MJ, Kocan AA, editors. Parasitic diseases of wild mammals. 2nd ed. Ames (IA): Iowa State University Press; 2001. p. 301-41.

(2.) Owen SF, Edwards JW, Ford WM, Crum JM, Wood DB. Raccoon roundworm in raccoons in central West Virginia. Northeastern Naturalist. 2004;11:137-42. DOI: 10.1656/10926194(2004)011[0137:RRIRIC]2.0.CO;2

(3.) McCleery RA, Foster GW, Lopez RR, Peterson MJ, Forrester DJ, Silvy NJ. Survey of raccoons on Key Largo, Florida, USA, for Baylisascaris procyonis. J Wildl Dis. 2005;41:250-2.

(4.) Souza MJ, Ramsay EC, Patton S, New JC. Baylisascaris procyonis in raccoons (Procyon lotor) in eastern Tennessee. J Wildl Dis. 2009;45:1231-4.

(5.) Eberhard ML, Nace EK, Won KY, Punkosdy GA, Bishop HS, Johnston SP. Baylisascaris procyonis in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Emerg Infect Dis. 2003;9:1636-7.

(6.) Blizzard EL, Davis CL, Henke S, Long DB, Hall CA, Yabsley MJ. Distribution, prevalence, and genetic characterization of Baylisascaris procyonis in selected areas of Georgia. J Parasitol. In press 2010.

(7.) Zhu X, Gasser RB, Chilton NB. Differences in the 5.8S rDNA sequences among ascarid nematodes. Int J Parasitol. 1998;28:617-22. DOI: 10.1016/S0020 7519(97)00214-2

(8.) Zhu XQ, Podolska M, Liu JS, Yu HQ, Chen HH, Lin ZX, et al. Identification of anisakid nematodes with zoonotic potential from Europe and China by singlestrand conformation polymorphism analysis of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Parasitol Res. 2007;101:1703-7. DOI: 10.1007/ s00436-007-0699-0

(9.) Forrester DJ. Raccoons. In Forrester DJ. Parasites and diseases of wild mammals in Florida, 1st ed. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Press; 1992. p. 123-50.

Address for correspondence: Michael J. Yabsley, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study--College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Wildlife Disease Bldg, Athens, GA 30605, USA; email: myabsley@uga.edu
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Blizzard, Emily L.; Yabsley, Michael J.; Beck, Margaret F.; Harsch, Stefan
Publication:Emerging Infectious Diseases
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Nov 1, 2010
Words:1216
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