Conservation and Trapping Science

Muskrat: Fatal infection with tapeworm in PA muskrat, with implications for human health
Dec 27, 2021 06:32 ET


The Taeniidae tapeworms are a family of helminths that have a similar life cycle, with intermediate hosts developing characteristic cysts in visceral organs. We describe here a case in Pennsylvania, USA, of fatal Versteria infection in a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), which, to our knowledge, has not been reported to develop disease associated with infection. Postmortem examination revealed widespread tissue loss and replacement by solid-bodied cestode larvae with minimal adjacent inflammation in many visceral organs, most severe in the lungs, liver, and brain. Key morphologic features via histology included cephalic structures and short rostellar hooklets, which are characteristic for the genus. Genetic characterization confirmed the cestode as being an undescribed lineage of Versteria that has been implicated as the cause of severe morbidity and mortality in humans and nonhuman primates in North America. Considering the zoonotic significance of this pathogen, our report expands on the limited literature regarding disease caused by Versteria and emphasizes the need to identify the causative tapeworm more accurately, especially in rodent intermediate hosts given that previous reports do not have molecular confirmation of species.