During the last three years, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been collaborating with the lab to test for the presence of lungworms (Dictyocaulus spp.) in moose. Lungworms have been noted in moose that have been found dead in late winter with heavy winter tick loads, and the combination of both lungworm and tick parasites has been implicated as a cause of calf mortality.
In the fall of 2012, students increased sampling intensity of moose lungs from harvested animals. This led to the lab finding Echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts in some moose lungs. E.G. is a very small tapeworm that has a two-part lifecycle; one in canids (coyotes/foxes/domestic dogs) and the second in moose, according to a press release from the department.
Genetic testing found that this E.G. is the northern, or least pathogenic, form of the tapeworm's genotypes.Finding the northern, wild-type form of E.G. in moose in Maine suggests that likely wild canids in Maine are infected and that possibly domestic dogs are infected as well, allowing for human exposure to this parasite, according to the press release.
It is also likely that humans have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems, according to the department, with scientists not actively looking for them prior to this work.
The adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the canid host, while the larval form lives in the lungs or liver of an infected moose. Humans may become infected by ingesting eggs of the parasite picked up by contact with canid feces, according to the press release.
In conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and University of Maine Animal Health Lab / Cooperative Extension, the department recommends that people encountering dead wild animals be cautious. They recommend wearing rubber or latex gloves when field dressing game and thoroughly cooking any wild game meat that will be consumed. In addition, they recommend protecting pets through regular veterinarian visits and avoiding contact with dead wild animals. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website has additional recommendations at www.maine.gov/ifw.