The tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis is an emerging pathogen of significance to human and animal health in Canada, yet little is known about key rodent intermediate hosts in local urban ecosystems. In Europe, invasive muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) are an important indicator intermediate host species; however, the role of this semiaquatic rodent in the ecology of E. multilocularis is undetermined in the North American context. We examined 93 muskrats that were livetrapped in the spring of 2017 within Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the presence of E. multilocularis infection. The objectives of this study were to 1) diagnose alveolar echinococcosis using macroscopic assessment, histopathology, and molecular analyses; 2) quantify infection severity; and 3) assess host demographic risk factors for infection. Macroscopic cysts consistent with alveolar echinococcosis were present in 24% of muskrats (22/93). Most individuals had hepatic cysts; however, cysts were also occasionally detected in the mesentery, reproductive organs, omentum, peritoneum, spleen, diaphragm, lung, or kidney. The mean number of cysts per liver was 2.1 (range, 1–4). We examined hepatic cysts from 18 individuals using histology; all had lesions compatible with alveolar echinococcosis. Protoscoleces, indicative of patent infections, were present in 14/18 (78%). No demographic risk factors (sex, body condition, body mass) were significantly associated with infection. Muskrats in the North American context are competent intermediate hosts with high infection prevalence and may play an important role in the ecology of this emerging parasite.

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