Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm, is considered an emerging zoonotic disease in the United States after being identified in raccoons captured in different U.S. regions and metropolitan areas. According to Dr. Susanne Straif-Bourgeois from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, humans can become infected with B. procyonis after ingesting mature roundworm eggs, sometimes resulting in fatal disease or severe sequelae in these patients. The first reported human Baylisascaris case in New Orleans raised concerns that very little was known about this zoonotic disease in the increasing urban raccoon population. Dr. Straif-Bourgeois’ study aim was to estimate the prevalence of Baylisascaris-infected raccoons in New Orleans.
The research team findings showed that 38.5 percent of New Orleans raccoons were infected with B. procyonis, defined by the presence of adult B. procyonis worms or Baylisascaris ova in their feces. Twenty-four of 65 raccoons (36.9 percent) had raccoon roundworms in their intestines and 31.7 percent of the fecal samples were positive for B. procyonis eggs. Mapping B. procyonis-infected raccoons by trapping location showed that infected raccoons were found throughout the city.
The team concluded that the high prevalence rate of B. procyonis in New Orleans raccoons demonstrates the importance of educating the public and health care professionals about potential health risks and providing resources to prevent exposure to infective eggs from raccoon latrines. Furthermore, this emerging disease should be further studied to examine human risk of infection in increasing raccoon populations in metropolitan areas.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on August 23