Baylisascaris procyonis prevalence and dynamics in a rodent population in Georgia

Ian Buchta, from Tulane University, worked with Dr. Michael Yabsley and members of his lab to study parasites in a local racoon population.

Ian Buchta1,2, Amanda Holley1, Kayla Buck1,3, Sarah Sapp1,4, Michael Yabsley1,3

Baylisascaris procyonis, the common roundworm parasite of raccoons, is a well-recognized zoonotic parasite. It utilizes small vertebrates as intermediate hosts and undergoes migration through the central nervous system which can lead to behavioral modifications or death. Previous studies on rodents have been conducted in Indiana where the prevalence of B. procyonis in raccoons is very high and only focused on a single species, the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). In Georgia, the prevalence is low in raccoons, possibly due to its recent emergence. Our study was conducted to determine if rodents in Georgia are infected and investigate if other rodents are involved in the life cycle. Additionally, we tested if habitat disturbance impacted prevalence. Rodents were trapped at five sites with variable disturbance. After human euthanasia, brains were removed, pressed between glass slides, and microscopically analyzed for larvae. The remaining tissues, other than the skin, were digested in a 0.3% pepsin and 1% hydrochloric acid and the resulting liquid was analyzed for larvae. Infections were noted at two sites in Jackson and Clarke counties. Of 71 P. leucopus tested, seven (10%) were infected, although only one had larvae in the brain. None of the cotton rats (n=10), cotton mice (n=3), brown rats (n=4), or chipmunks (n=2) were infected. No difference in prevalence was noted for P. leucopus from sites with low or high levels of disturbance. Our finding of B. procyonis in P. leucopus is the first to document the parasite in a non-raccoon host in Georgia and of the parasite in Jackson Co., Georgia. Because this parasite causes disease in numerous avian and mammalian hosts, wildlife with neurologic disease should be considered suspects for B. procyonis infection



  1. Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine,  Athens, GA 30602
  2. Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118
  3.  Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
  4. Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

Download (PDF, 1.06MB)