Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The raccoon spreads dangerous diseases as it invades Europe

29.08.2012
Furry, agile, intelligent and voracious: the raccoon is far from being a cuddly toy, which is what many people believe when they get one as a pet. It is more like an invader that escapes and is able to adapt and survive in new habitats.

According to a study, its expansion across Spain and Europe is bringing infectious and parasitic diseases like rabies. This puts the health of native species and people at risk.


The raccoon spreads dangerous diseases as it invades Europe.

Credit: F.J. García

Originating in North America, the raccoon (Procyon lotor) is an invasive species that has established itself in Europe due to hunting and the fur trade along with its acquisition as a pet. In Spain, its presence in the wild is already commonplace in Madrid and Guadalajara and is sporadic in other regions such as the island of Mallorca. Its presence is however far from welcomed.

"Due to its rapid expansion and the long list of illnesses that it may carry, it poses a health risk that we must bear in mind," as outlined to SINC Beatriz Beltrán-Beck, the lead author of the study published in the 'European Journal of Wildlife Research' and researcher at the Research Institute of Hunting Resources (IREC, joint centre of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the CSIC, and Castilla-La Mancha Council).

Bearing in mind that its population density could exceed 100 raccoons per km2, the success of the expansion of this small opportunistic carnivore is down to its ability to quickly adapt to different surroundings and omnivorous food habitats, its high reproductive potential and the absence of natural predators.

However, as Beltrán-Beck points out, "the impact that their expansion and invasion could have on the environment and the health of native species and humans is unknown." The researcher adds that the increase in population numbers and expansion to other countries and/or urban environments could increase the transmission of dangerous parasites and illnesses to domestic animals and humans.

The guest that nobody wants in their home

The research team gathered all types of information on the infectious and parasitic diseases that raccoons can transmit. The aim was to assess the propagation risk of infections along with possible control methods. But, according to the author, "there is little data in Europe on this species".

Rabies and a very pathogenic parasite to man (Baylisascaris procyonis), which was found in Germany, are some of the most significant illnesses found in the raccoon. But, along with bacterial illnesses, these are added to the West Nile virus which affects human, birds, horses and sheep.

Although in Western Europe rabies have been eliminated thanks to the oral vaccination for foxes (Vulpes vulpes), there is still concern that the raccoon could complicate the situation in some areas of Eastern Europe that are still home to rabies. In recent years 142 cases of rabies in raccoons have been identified, above all in Ukraine, Estonia, Germany and Lithuania.

This small American carnivore has been confirmed to be the host of the nematode worm Baylisascaris procyonis, which is responsible for Larva migrans, an illness caused by larval migration and parasite persistence under the skin, in the brain and in other organs. In the past this disease could only be found in America but is now emerging and on the rise in Europe.

"The infected raccoons can scatter millions of nematode B. procyonis eggs, which cause significant environmental contamination," warn the scientists. In the USA, between 68% and 82% of mammals have this parasite. Prevalence is also high in Germany although in Japan, for example, the parasite was not detected in any of the 1,688 raccoons captured for the purposes of other studies.

According to Beltrán-Beck, "more epidemiological studies are necessary on the current health situation and the implementation of measures that limit the possible impact of invading raccoons."

An unpleasant "pet"

Given its exotic origin and its rapid expansion since the 1970's, the raccoon is considered an invasive species in Europe. However, the majority of European countries, like Spain, do not control the trade of this animal, which is introduced onto the market as a pet.

"The case of Spain is a good example. The origin of its expansion is probably due to it escaping from the home where it was kept as a pet and due to the owners releasing it into the countryside when it reaches adulthood and becomes aggressive," adds the researcher.

According to the researcher, "this is mainly the case because there is a complete lack of knowledge of the biology, ecology, distribution and population density of the raccoon in Europe."

References:

Beltrán-Beck B, García FJ, Gortázar C, (2012) "Raccoons in Europe: disease hazards due to the establishment of an invasive species", European Journal of Wildlife Research 58, pp 5

García JT, García FJ, Alda F, González JL, Aramburu MJ, Cortés Y, Prieto B, Pliego B, Pérez M, Herrera J, García-Román L, (2012) "Recent invasion and status of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) in Spain", Biological Invasions, DOI 10.1007/s10530-011-0157-x

SINC | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fecyt.es

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>