A deadly raccoon parasite that can cause severe neurological problems in infected hosts has been popping up in the South, and seven new cases of human infection in the U.S. have been documented in the last two years alone.
Although this “raccoon roundworm” was believed to cause severe problems and even death in people who become infected, a new University of Georgia study shows that’s not always the case. Researchers found that people with frequent contact with raccoons who have a higher risk of becoming infected with Baylisascaris procyonis-such as wildlife rehabilitators-did test positive for the parasite but weren’t showing any symptoms.
“This suggests that not all infections with this parasite lead to severe disease,” said Michael Yabsley, a professor with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study housed in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “This is in contrast to what has been previously reported for most diagnosed patients.”
Yabsley, who also has a joint appointment with the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, worked with several other researchers on the new study, recently published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases.