Parasite that can kill humans and animals is spreading across Florida.
Rat lungworm is a parasite named after the host it was originally found in, a rat. Although Rat lungworn is native to Hawaii it has also been found in Southern Florida and a recent study shows the progress throughout the state. This parasite is found in the brain of humans and animals and causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, also known as meningitis.
The researchers found the parasitic roundworm, known as rat lungworm, living in rats, snails and slugs in five Florida counties in both the central and northern parts of the state. Rat lungworm is native to Hawaii and tropical locations and was previously found in southern Florida, but the new study is one of the first to show the extent of the parasite’s spread across the state.
In a study done by the University of Florida, which was published in PLoS ONE, the researchers tested rats and snails from 18 counties around the state. Samples from Hillsborough, Orange, Alachua, St. Johns and Leon all tested positive for the parasite.
“The reality is that it is probably in more counties than we found it in, and it is also probably more prevalent in the southeastern U.S. than we think,” Heather Stockdale Walden, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the University of Florida department of infectious disease and pathology, told the UF College of Veterinary Medicine website. “The ability for this historically subtropical nematode to thrive in a more temperate climate is alarming.”
From Fox News:
Rat lungworm can cause severe gastrointestinal or central nervous system issues in humans and animals, including livestock or pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the adult form of the parasite is only found in rodents which pass larvae of the parasite in their feces. It can be transmitted to snails and slugs that ingest the larvae.