Childhood nightmare spotlight: raccoon poop brain parasites

Tens of thousands of childhood nightmares: wrapped up in one little package.
Tens of thousands of childhood nightmares: wrapped up in one little package.Courtesy bug_girl_mi
Remember stumbling through the world as a stupid little kid? You touched bugs. You dug holes. You explored mud. And then… then you heard about killer bees. Killer bees and flesh-eating diseases. Killer bees, flesh-eating diseases, and tiny eggs that could come off a picnic table, get into your body, and hatch into something that would eat your brain.

It wasn’t the end of your childhood, it just gave you something to think about all the time. No, you’re childhood didn’t end until you were able to convince yourself that these things—killer bees, flesh-eating bacteria, brain eggs—were harmless… if they even exist at all.

Well guess what: they do. They exist, and they are dangerous! Your childhood is long gone, and now so is your adulthood. Welcome to the next stage in your life: The childhood nightmare spotlight!

Today’s feature: raccoon poop brain parasites! They’re real, and they’re all up in your brains!

So, what’s nice about raccoon poop brain parasites as a childhood nightmare—as opposed to childhood nightmares like killer bees, or one of those little fish that will swim up your urethra—is that even we fancy city-folk are vulnerable to it.

See, there is, in this world, a thing called Baylisascaris procyonis. B. procyonis is a species of roundworm. It is a parasitic species of roundworm, in fact, known to infest the guts of raccoons. Should procyonis eggs find their way into a human (and more on ust how they might do that in a minute), there’s no need to worry about them turning into worms and going crazy in the intestines—the parasite really only wants to do that to raccoons. Instead, the eggs hatch into larvae, and enter the blood stream, traveling about the body to wherever suits them. I think that whoever wrote the wikipedia article on them puts what happens next rather well:

A great deal of damage occurs wherever the larva tries to make a home. In response to the attack, the body attempts to destroy it by walling it off or killing it. The larva moves rapidly to escape, seeking out the liver, eyes, spinal cord or brain. Occasionally they can be found in the heart, lungs, and other organs.

This can lead to a whole range of symptoms from skin irritation to blindness to brain damage (and what doctors call “craziness”) to death.

So how do they get in you? You have to eat poorly cooked raccoon, or uncooked raccoon feces.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Phew! It’s been years since I’ve had undercooked raccoon, and I almost never put raccoon feces in my mouth anymore. Not since college! I don’t even know where to get raccoon feces these days!”

Shows what you know. Raccoons are everywhere, even in your precious, safe cities. And when they pick a spot to relieve themselves, they really go for it. Raccoons, as it happens, us communal “latrines.” That means that multiple raccoons will pick a spot in, say, your back yard, to all go to the bathroom on. Each gram of raccoon feces can contain up to 20,000 worm eggs, so when you’ve got a latrine full of raccoon mess, you’ve got plenty of potential brain parasites. Especially if you’re in the habit of putting everything in your mouth, or of cleaning your yard with a leaf-blower. (The leaf blower would fill the air—and possibly your mouth—with tiny particles of raccoon feces and brain parasite eggs.)

Not many people get the disease (only 14 in the last 30 years, says this article, or possibly 25 in the last 6 years, like this article says) but getting it is bad enough that you might want to give it a little thought. Or lots of though, late at night. Don’t believe me? Read this article again.

The best way to avoid it is to keep that raccoon feces out of your mouth. And to follow the simple tips on cleaning up raccoon latrines offered in this article (which you already looked at). My favorite anti-raccoon latrine tip? “Flame” the latrine with a propane torch! It’s like Aliens!

At any rate, you’re probably safe. Possibly safe. Safe-ish.

You really could have raccoon poop brain parasites, you know. There were probably some on your deck, and you didn’t even think about it when you were eating that watermelon.

You probably have a headache right now.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

DrClown's picture
DrClown says:

lol I love the last couple paragraphs

posted on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 6:52am
pissed off in New York's picture
pissed off in New York says:

As a matter of fact,i do have a headache right now! I'm positive that its due to a parasite infection. Here's the really horrifying part: there isnt a doctor on this planet that is worth a [darn] enough to do something about it. Isn't that nice?!! I'm pretty sure that parasitogy is one of the first courses that they have to take in medical school, yet they act like people are above other animals, and couldn't possibly have parasites infections. Of course, if they cured you,you won't have to keep coming back to them with complaints of a "mystery" disease. Thats how those [nogoodniks] can afford beach front property in Florida. It's pretty bad when i can take my dog to the vet, and know the very next day, every parasite that he has, and i can get medication for him too. So, I guess my animals have more rights than i do! I went to a hospital in syracuse and told them what to test me for, the doctor replied,"this is a medical facility, we dont do tests like that." Are you [dingdong] kidding me? That really [cheeses] me off! I have been to 4 different hospitals in 2 years,do you think one of those [goll-durn] doctors would do anything about it? Now, i have brain seizures, hallucinations, convulsions, and all kinds of other really nice [stuff]. I'm a thirty year old single mother, and i'm hanging around, just waiting to die, because NO ONE will help me. That's real [dang] cute!!!!!

[Edited for language by Science Buzz]

posted on Fri, 10/16/2009 - 5:44pm
Octavian's picture
Octavian says:

I know its been almost 2 years since your last post; however, parasitic infections are chronic illnesses that do not simply go away and I am saddened to hear of your situation-therefore I have some advice that may help:

you need an infectious disease physician that specifically specializes in parasitology, that preferably, has experience treating parasitic infections in the third world

also, you need an anthelmintic ( vermicidal) diet, consisting of alkalines, such as onions, garlic, ginger and such, to alter the biochemistry of your body to make it less hospitable to parasites

I understand your frustration-you are correct when you say that 99% of doctors are worthless in terms of parasitology, that is due to their arrogance, ignorance, and the lack of emphasis on a very important topic in medical allopathic curriculums

posted on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 2:02pm
Melora's picture
Melora says:

I don't know which childhood nightmare haunted me most-killer bees...or quicksand!!
Now that I have finally mastered those fears, thanks for replacing them with raccoon poop parasites. Yikes!

posted on Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:14pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Have you ever considered fire ants? I gave fire ants a lot of thought as a child. I also recommend the Guinea worm. Or any one of the flesh-eating diseases.

posted on Thu, 05/13/2010 - 2:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Great article but scary as heck. Wondering if I'll get raccoon parasites from my brother in laws organic garden where there are numerous visits from raccoons. Yikes, and he fed us some veggies from that garden.

posted on Tue, 07/06/2010 - 10:20pm's picture

This is a VERY RARE...but it is real. My niece was infected in the spring of 2007. A happy healthy 18 month old spent MONTHS in the hospital. She is now over 4 years old and is just now learning to stand up and to say basic words that my 1 year old has been saying for a while. At the time she was finially diagnosed there had been about 30 cases and over HALF of those diagnosed with this parasite DIED! Now, I do want to let you know that my boys still play outside in the dirt! I am a strong believer that you can't protect your children from everything, but you can be aware of these things.

posted on Thu, 07/15/2010 - 8:18pm
lorrie's picture
lorrie says:

OMG, I didn't know any of this! Now I feel like I am surrounded with all these parasites even though I haven't saw a raccoon recently. That's one more reason to get that raccoon repellent I saw at the pests store, you never know when it may save your brain, right?

posted on Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have recently encountered a baby raccoon and handled it also. This was a just last week. The orphaned raccoon is now at the vets office. After reading this article I am now scared out of my mind. AHHH! I wish I had read this article this time last week. Thank for the information.

posted on Mon, 06/13/2011 - 7:41pm
ggreen_007's picture
ggreen_007 says:

Ooh! How sad it is for many children who spend their life in isolation, in clean environments, in homes with pesticides and antibiotics to ensure they are well. Where are the children who played in the dirt as you describe in your article!

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 2:49am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

They all died of brain parasites.

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 8:42am
Octavian's picture
Octavian says:

the article is 100% correct

2 billion people on earth have a parasite of one kind or another, the majority either have no clue as they are asymptomatic or do not recognize the symptoms as parasitic in nature

the only physicians qualified to treat parasitic infections are infectious disease physicians, a type of internal medicine physician. even they have hardly a clue as to what they are talking about, most have little to no experience with more than just a handful of species, and fail to understand something called evolution-in that new species emerge on a daily basis thanks to another often unbelievable concept: global warming

dr. hulda clarke said it best when she said that all diseases are caused by pollution and parasites

the reason why the above mentioned infectious disease physicians are almost worthless and clueless about parasites is because in order to properly treat parasites, one must understand parasitic helminthology thoroughly, which typically requires a PHD in the subject, SOMETHING VERY RARE even amongst the best infectious disease physicians

unless the medical community wakes up a realizes that pathogens, especially parasites are the single gravest threat to humanity, expect more horror stories to emerge en masse in the 21st century

posted on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 1:53pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Raccoon brain worms kill zoo animals like large exotic birds and primates that might be kept in outside cages where raccoon poop can fall through the cage wire. The animals show neurological problems and then there's nothing you can do except try to trap the raccoons.

posted on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 3:23pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Wow! Very interesting. Thanks! I'll add that to the nightmare.

posted on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 8:55am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have been a raccoon rehaber for 5 years. Just to ad a little something. The poop has to be in a dry state, when it is re hydrated is when the eggs hatch. If you find wet poop, it is safe to shovel it into the

posted on Sun, 10/09/2011 - 7:45pm
laurie martindale's picture
laurie martindale says:

I have a animal rescue in country & grow a organic garden every year, I also have a large population Racoons that come out at night they wash their hands in the water left out for the ferral cats I wash it daily. Can I catch anything from doing that? Also found their feces in my garden where I am growing tomatoes, I toke it out but is the ground infected now or the plants. I am very scared...

posted on Thu, 04/24/2014 - 10:37pm
Angelia's picture
Angelia says:

Unfortunately, this is a real deadly hazard. My 3 year old grandson, who lives within city limits, was recently hospitalized and nearly lost his life to this parasite. He developed meningoencephalitis, which caused brain swelling and stroke. He has suffered brain damage and is now in extensive occupational, physical, and speech therapy. He is immune deficient which may have contributed to the progress of the disease. Please tell all parents, whether you live in rural or urban areas, this is very important. Not many people survive this infection, and my grandson is listed as No. 24 in the medical journals of reported incidents.

posted on Mon, 09/14/2015 - 6:57pm

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