ABSTRACT

Trichinella spp. nematodes are commonly found in bear species (Ursidae) and can pose severe health risks to humans when infective first-stage larvae are ingested in meat. Samples of tongue or masseter muscle from 22 male and eight female American black bears (Ursus americanus) (mean age 6.5 yr, range 1–16 yr) and 22 male, eight female, and one unknown sex grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) (mean age 8.8 yr, range 2–28 yr), from Yukon, Canada, were tested to determine prevalence and intensity of Trichinella spp. infection. For black bears, prevalence was 20% and mean intensity was 401 larvae per gram of tissue (LPG), whereas for grizzly bears, prevalence was 71%, and mean infection intensity was 35 LPG. Isolates from all positive samples were identified as genotype Trichinella-T6 by multiplex PCR. For black bears, prevalence is the highest reported in Canada and infection intensity the highest recorded in North America. One black bear had a larval burden of 1,173 LPG, the second highest recorded in any host species. The prevalence in grizzly bears was the highest reported in Canada for this host. In total, 90% (27 of 30) of infected bears had infection burdens above the human food safety threshold of ≥1 LPG, reinforcing the importance of communicating the health risks to people consuming bear meat.

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