Rats spread brain-invading worms

“Rats spread brain-invading worms.” Rat lung worm has been around for decades. However, there have been an increase in the number of cases in the last decade in Maui, Hawaii. The number is small, but it’s a dramatic jump from the normal number of cases. In the decade before, the island had only seen two other cases.

The surprising increase in cases has health officials and residents alike worried about the rise of the brain-invading worm. Furthermore, the infection may be symptomless, difficult to detect and resolve itself on its own. But for others, rat lung worm moves into the brain and can cause inflammation, pain, and other neurological problems such as tremors. Indeed, in some cases, it can be fatal. In all cases, rat lung worm is very difficult to diagnose.

Rats spread brain-invading worms: The role of slugs and snails

As the name suggests, rat lung worm is a parasitic roundworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that infects rats’ lungs as well as their blood and brains. Infected rats poop out worm larvae, which can be picked up by snails, slugs, lizards, land crabs and freshwater shrimp. These are intermediate hosts that shed the worm. Humans can pick up the infection by handling or eating any infected beast or by eating produce that has been contaminated by roaming infected snails and slugs.

In conclusion, the growth of globalisation and climate change has lead to an increase in cases across the globe. In addition, concerns are rising that post lock down increases in international travel will result in a further spread of the disease.

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