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J Zoo Wildl Med. 2007 Mar;38(1):18-26.

A serologic assessment of exposure to viral pathogens and Leptospira in an urban raccoon (Procyon lotor) population inhabiting a large zoological park.

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  • 1Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri 63110, USA.


In urban environments, raccoons (Procyon lotor) may act as reservoirs for an array of pathogenic organisms, presenting spillover risks for human, domestic animal, and captive (zoo) animal populations. Over 5 yr, 159 raccoons from a high-density raccoon population in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), were surveyed for exposure to canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1); feline parvovirus (FPV; =feline panleukopenia), and several serovars of Leptospira interrogans. Exposure to each of the viruses and two Leptospira serovars (grippotyphosa and icterohemorrhagiae) was detected (prevalence of CDV = 54.1%; FPV = 49.7%; CAV-1 = 6.9%; L. interrogans icterohemorrhagiae = 8.9%; L. interrogans grippotyphosa = 6.3%). Eighty percent of raccoons showed evidence of exposure to at least one of the five primary pathogens, and 39% were positive for multiple species. Among the viruses, there was a significant co-occurrence of CDV and CAV-1. Longitudinal data on a subset of animals revealed that among individuals who were diagnosed as seropositive on first capture, 33-100% became seronegative for the pathogen of interest when reexamined at a later date. Thus, free-ranging urban raccoons have been exposed to multiple infectious agents, some of which may pose risks to humans and to nonvaccinated domestic and captive animal populations.

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