A new hookworm in black and grizzly bears in western Canada?

Hookworms are blood-sucking nematodes that live in the small intestine of a wide range of mammals. Species of the genus Uncinaria are important hookworms that fasten themselves to the intestinal wall and suck blood; causing disease to the host. More importantly, hookworms are implicated in the death of the offspring of mammals that they affect. Two species of Uncinaria (U. yukonensis and U. rauschi) have been reported from bears in western Canada. As part of the surveillance activity of the CCWHC Alberta node, we recently found a distinct worm of the genus Uncinaria from black and grizzly bears that differed morphologically from the two hookworm species that has previously been described. Since October 2010, hookworm specimens collected from black and grizzly bears were studied to determine the identity of this new hookworm species. Stefano Catalano, a Master’s student at UCVM, supervised by Padraig Duignan and Mani Lejeune is currently involved in this research to further characterize this parasite. As grizzly bears are listed as endangered in parts of Canada, the ultimate aim of this research is to determine the role of hookworms in natural grizzly bear mortality.

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