Abstract

Trypanosoma cruzi is the etiologic agent of Chagas' disease. Autochthonous human and canine transmission of T. cruzi has been documented in Tennessee, but little is known about its ecology, including the prevalence of T. cruzi among wildlife in Tennessee. Serum samples from 706 raccoons (Procyon lotor) from 10 counties in the Ridge and Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains ecoregions of eastern Tennessee were tested for antibodies reactive with T. cruzi using the indirect fluorescent antibody assay. Two hundred six (29.2%) samples were seropositive, with 9 counties yielding positive samples (range 14.6–63.6%). Significantly more raccoons from rural habitats (35.1%) were found positive for T. cruzi exposure than were those from suburban habitats (23.1%, P < 0.001). Land cover class was not associated with seropositivity status (P  =  0.441), even though deciduous forest was the most common site from where raccoons were trapped and the most common site of positive raccoons in rural areas (42%). Interestingly, age was positively associated with seropositivity. Raccoons older than 1 yr (adults) were 40.1% seropositive compared to 12.2% of those less than 1 yr (juveniles; P < 0.001). Female adults were significantly more likely to be exposed to T. cruzi than were male adult raccoons (P < 0.001). No significant seroprevalence difference was seen among male and female juveniles. This study contributes to understanding the dynamics of T. cruzi exposure within raccoon populations in Tennessee. The importance of habitat (rural vs. suburban) and microhabitat (dens) in risk of exposure to these populations is also discussed.

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