Introduction

Usually we think of raccoons as cuddly, cute creatures. Their masked appearance, furry bodies, and generally "adorable" characteristics have allowed us to see them more as another forest friend, an animal no one should have any qualms against. Disney helped out this generalization more in the movie "Pocahontas," portraying one of Pocahontas's best friends as a raccoon which gets into some crazy antics throughout the movie.

Meeko!

Courtesy http://www.klintan.se/sailormfl1/disney/disney4.html

Some have gone so far as to take raccoons on as pets. Yet these animals, as innocent as they appear, may not be as harmless as once thought . . .

Within the last 100 years, a new danger, originating in raccoons, has been discovered. Baylisascariasis, caused by the raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, has been documented as a major threat to both humans and smaller animals. The nematode eggs, passed through the raccoon's feces, enter an intermediate host cycle when consumed by non-reservoir hosts. In this cycle, however, no eggs are passed, no larvae are passed, no adults develop; rather, the larvae encyst themselves in different areas of the body of its intermediate host, causing massive damage and death.

Infective larvae within the eggs, ready for consumption and ensuing infection.

Courtesy Roussere et al.

Suddenly, those cute and cuddly "little rascals" aren't so cute and cuddly anymore.

 

Craig Boge, Class of 2007, Email: cboge@stanford.edu

Stanford University

Parasites & Pestilence: Emerging Public Health Challenges

Prof. D. Scott Smith, Email: ssmith@stanford.edu