Baylisascaris procyonis, a.k.a. raccoon roundworm, is increasingly being recognized as a cause of visceral, ocular, and neural infections in wildlife and humans. Despite its emerging public health importance, very little is known about the population dynamics of this parasite. We analyzed the population genetic structure of this parasite in West Michigan based on DNA extracted from adult worms obtained from euthanized raccoons provided by fur-trappers, animal control operations, and road kills. Over 200 specimens of B. procyonis were collected from 84 raccoons over a 12 month period. Prevalence of infection showed a pronounced seasonal variation: close to zero during the winter and over 70% during the late summer and fall. Preliminary results indicate extensive gene flow and weak population structure, as would be expected given the restricted geographic scale of this project and the agility and cosmopolitan nature of raccoons.
Faculty Mentor: Douglas Graham, Biomedical Science