Sudden Outburst Of A Rare Parasitic Infection Blamed On Climate Change

First Posted: Apr 11, 2017 03:40 AM EDT

A rare parasitic infection referred to as a rat lungworm is spreading across the United States. The experts blamed climate change and globalization on its proliferation.

Rat lungworm also called Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a parasitic nematode that causes eosinophilic meningitis particularly in the Pacific Basin and Southeast Asia. Its nematode is found in the pulmonary arteries of rats and its chief intermediate hosts are the snails, in which the larvae develop until they become infectious. Once the rats defecated worm larvae, they might spread to other animals such as slugs, freshwater shrimp and snails.

People may catch this infection through ingestion of larvae in raw snails or from soiled water and vegetables. Then, the larvae are transmitted in the blood to the central nervous system. This causes the eosinophilic meningitis that could lead to death or brain and nerve damage.

There were nine cases of the rat lungworm infections reported in Hawaii in the past months, according to CNN. The health officials issued warning not to touch snails or slugs with their bare hands because of the infectious larvae. The infections spread now to Alabama, California, Florida and Louisiana. There are also cases that have been documented in more than 30 countries, as Gizmodo reported.

According to 2004 World Health Organization, most new infections may appear to be triggered by pathogens that are visible in the environment. This have been taken out of unimportance or given selective advantage through altered ecological and social conditions. Experts theorized that this is another effect of climate change.

There is no treatment on the disease and it is difficult to diagnose, too. To relieve its symptoms such as headaches and hyperesthesia, the analgesics and sedatives are provided. The process of removing the cerebrospinal fluid at regular three- to seven-day intervals could also lessen the intracranial pressure and treat headaches as well.

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