Nine cases of rare brain-invading parasite confirmed as 'epidemic' spreads

Toni Houston
April 13, 2017

Officials from Maui, Hawaii, have warned citizens about certain locations to stay away from snails or slugs as contact with them with bare skin could lead to the development of the brain-invading parasite, also called rat lungworm. The disease can also be contracted from eating raw or undercooked snails, slugs, frogs, freshwater shrimp or land crabs. A person who handles an item or animals infected with the parasite will be infected.

The risk of rabies among the two people who ate the salad is low, but they were advised to begin rabies treatment, the CDC said. However, serious complications related to the infection can occur, sometimes causing neurological dysfunction or death, according to the CDC.

University of Hawaii at Hilo researchers say rat lungworm disease is preventable, but only if people are informed. The adult parasite is found in rats, but the infected rats can pass the larvae in their droppings, infecting snails and slugs that eat the larvae. In past one decade only two cases were documented. Infections have since been reported in more than 30 countries, including the USA, and while globalization has been pinned as a culprit, climate change has also been suggested as a reason for rat lungworm disease's increasing prevalence.

However, the CDC says that "Diagnosing A. cantonensis infections can be hard, in part because there are no readily available blood tests". The disease can be carried by infected rats on container ships, as well as by intermediate hosts such as snails or slugs.

Two California newlyweds have unfortunately spent a lot of time in the hospital since tying the knot earlier this year in Hawaii.

The parasite is named as rat lungworm because it grows in lungs, brain, and blood of rats.


A bill is now making its way through the legislature that would fund programs to study, prevent, and hopefully eradicate the disease.

Angiostrongyliasis, also known as rat lungworm, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

People do not become contagious, so they can not transmit the infection to someone else.

The infections of rare parasitic worm are alarming and it can go up to the brain.

At first, Angiostrongylus cantonensis is common only in Southeast Asia and tropical Pacific islands. "So making sure that the foods you eat are cooked properly, your vegetables are washed - that would help you prevent infection", Walden said. "We don't want to cause panic so we don't continuously print it, but we do but prevention methods in there along with the advisory", the state Health Department's Marlena Dixon explained to Big Island Video News. Humans can contract it by eating the infected snail or slug, or even just its residue on tainted, unwashed vegetables, primarily leafy produce like lettuce.

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