Fortunately, rat lungworm is one of the few parasites that sounds more disgusting than it is. Unfortunately, it is even more frightening than his crude name suggests.
Two poor people who have recently been infected – as reported on Monday in the journal American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene – gathered the parasites through raw food centipedes that give you a false sense of security could. " I do not eat millipedes," you think foolishly. You probably also do not live in a small rural town in Guangzhou, China, where the mother and her son came to the hospital with a persistent headache. (Of course you can live in a small rural town in Guangzhou and / or enjoy an occasional centipede snack, but our reader analysis tells us that this is statistically unlikely.)
But rat-lung worm is not more limited to Asia and the Caribbean anymore: it is also in the USA. And you do not have to indulge in conscious entomophagy for the disease to hit you.
But first let's talk about what the rat lung lungworm is. As the name implies, the parasitic roundworm causing angiostrongyliasis (the scientific name for the disease) lives in rat lungs, especially in the pulmonary blood vessels. Infected rats excrete the worms in their feces, where they can infect other living things such as snails, snails, frogs and, yes, millipedes. Cooking one of these animals kills the parasite, so snail fans will not have to worry, but to eat one of them raw can easily give the roundworms to you. You, a human, call epidemiologists a random host. Angiostrongylus cantonensis is not trying to infect you, but if it is in your bloodstream it will feel at home.
Once inside you, the worms can get into your central nervous system, where you can cause eosinophilic meningitis. Meningitis is generally an inflammation of the meninges surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The eosinophilic type is rare and so called because it involves a proliferation of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell that fights parasites. That is, in fact, how many cases of rat lungworms are diagnosed in humans. There is no blood test, so the diagnosis depends on doctors taking certain clues sufficient to test cerebrospinal fluid for high levels of eosinophils.
This was the case for this mother and her son who were in the hospital for several weeks apart from persistent headaches. The mother, 78, also had cognitive impairment and drowsiness. The son, 46, had a little stiff neck. Only after questioning did the doctors realize that they had eaten raw centipedes in the past few days and considered looking at their cerebrospinal fluid.
However, these symptoms are not exactly typical of rat lungworms. The neck stiffness and headaches are classic signs of meningitis in general ̵
The other parasite that causes rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus costaricensis can also cause abdominal pain as it often travels to the intestine. The Centers for Disease Control find that the pain can be severe enough to mimic appendicitis, and often, when surgeons remove the appendix, they realize what is actually causing the pain. However, when the worms are lying around, people can develop internal bleeding from their bowels if the worms get stuck in capillaries and cause inflammatory reactions if they die off. (Okay, maybe that's grosser than it sounds …)
That used to be a problem in Asia and the Caribbean. There, the parasite circulated between the rat and snail populations. A 2013 study found that the disease is spreading, largely due to global shipping patterns in cargo ships and airplanes that can carry rats and snails or snails without anyone noticing. The same study found infected apple snails in New Orleans and infected flatworms in Hawai'i, as well as other infected mollusks and many, many rats. A study from 2015 found the parasite in the huge African land snails that also hang in Florida. Some researchers have expressed their concern that climate change could increase the range of these creatures and thus also expand the area in which the parasite can come into contact with humans.
Now you may think that you still [ do not eat uncooked snails and slugs. For this we will say that you do not eat uncooked snails and slugs on purpose . Some people certainly eat these creatures raw, be it for supposed medical purposes (which is why the two people consumed the millipedes raw in the case report) or on a duty, or simply because they enjoy it (no judgment). But many of us probably accidentally ate a raw nudibranch on some badly washed salad. And you do not have to eat the snail or snail yourself – larvae can hide in the mucus. They can become infected without realizing it. Besides, it's not just snails and snails. Shrimp, frogs and crabs can also give you the disease, as well as water that has housed one of these animals.
People living in Hawai'i have already become infected (and also a teenager who was just on vacation there)). Several people have landed in comas, and a study of 84 cases of lungworm rat in Hawai'i from January 2001 to February 2005, researchers found that at least 24 of the cases were due A. cantonensis .
These cases do not appear to have been specifically treated for the parasite, but have been treated with drugs to improve their symptoms. Similarly, the CDC does not specifically treat rat lungworm. Both Chinese patients in this most recent case study were treated with albendazole (an anti-parasitic drug) for 21 days and dexamethasone (an anti-inflammatory steroid) for 15 days, which apparently cleared the disease.
If you live around the Gulf of Mexico or in Hawaii, rat lungworm could be a growing problem for you. So, yes, avoid eating raw or under-cooked snails or snails (not that most of us would know the proper cooking technique for a garden snail), but do not drink from the garden hose or handle any creatures you feed House is close to you without washing your hands afterwards. Wash all your products thoroughly. And maybe just stay away from raw millipedes.