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Study: Rocky Mountain wolves infected with parasite

[large thumbnail url=”study-rocky-mountain-wolves-infected-with-parasite” filename=”science” year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”18″] [thumbnail icon url=”study-rocky-mountain-wolves-infected-with-parasite” filename=”science” ¬†year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”18″] A recently published study by researchers from Washington State University has shown that wolves in Idaho and Montana are now carriers of a wild strain of tapeworms – but there is no evidence the parasite can be transmitted to domestic livestock.

The theory is that the parasite could have been introduced to the population when canadian wolves were used for reintroduction into Yellowstone Park. Alternatively, another local predator could have already been a carrier of the parasite.

Wild ungulates such as elk, mule deer and mountain goats have also been documented to carry the parasites.

The parasite is spread through the waste of infected animals, and through the eating of infected prey. It is similar to the tapeworm found in dogs in the southwest, which can infect people and domestic livestock, but the wild strain seems to stick to wild animals.

Here is the full abstract of the study:

Echinococcus granulosus in gray wolves and ungulates in Idaho and Montana, USA.

Foreyt WJ, Drew ML, Atkinson M, McCauley D.

Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-7040, USA.

We evaluated the small intestines of 123 gray wolves (Canis lupus) that were collected from Idaho, USA (n=63), and Montana, USA (n=60), between 2006 and 2008 for the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus. The tapeworm was detected in 39 of 63 wolves (62%) in Idaho, USA, and 38 of 60 wolves (63%) in Montana, USA. The detection of thousands of tapeworms per wolf was a common finding. In Idaho, USA, hydatid cysts, the intermediate form of E. granulosus, were detected in elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus). In Montana, USA, hydatid cysts were detected in elk. To our knowledge, this is the first report of adult E. granulosus in Idaho, USA, or Montana, USA. It is unknown whether the parasite was introduced into Idaho, USA, and southwestern Montana, USA, with the importation of wolves from Alberta, Canada, or British Columbia, Canada, into Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA, and central Idaho, USA, in 1995 and 1996, or whether the parasite has always been present in other carnivore hosts, and wolves became a new definitive host. Based on our results, the parasite is now well established in wolves in these states and is documented in elk, mule deer, and a mountain goat as intermediate hosts.

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