Researchers at the University of Valencia on Spain’s southeastern coast have detected the parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, aka the rat lungworm in two different species of rats in the city of Valencia.
“It is an emerging parasite , which is expanding and which must be taken into account,” explains María Teresa Galán, professor of the Parasites and Health group at the University of Valencia and leader of the research that has recently detected the parasite in two different species of rats in the city of Valencia. Specifically, the worm has been identified both in sewer rats ( Rattus norvegicus ), a common animal in urban environments, and in the black rat ( Rattus rattus), more frequent in rural areas. After studying 90 specimens of both species, the researchers found the parasite in 9% of them, both in animals trapped in the city and in specimens located in orchard areas, which suggests a “broad distribution”, as they point out. in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases .
This is the first known detection in continental Europe.
“Rats are the definitive host of the parasite. And we believe that the introduction of the parasite occurs along with its natural hosts, which have been able to spread throughout the world through maritime traffic, on ships”, clarifies Galán. The parasite is endemic in South Asia and the Pacific Rim, although it has been detected in other regions, such as the Caribbean, India, South America, the southern United States or some enclaves on the African continent.
Its expansion capacity shows that A.cantonensis is a parasite with a great opportunistic capacity, which does not miss the opportunity to take advantage of different beings.
In order to develop and complete its cycle, the parasite needs, in addition to rats, the intervention of other species, such as snails and slugs, which act as intermediaries and allow it to mature and change stages.
What is rat lungworm?
Angiostrongyliasis, also known as rat lungworm, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by a parasitic nematode (roundworm parasite) called Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
The adult form of A. cantonensis is only found in rodents. However, infected rodents can pass larvae of the worm in their feces. Snails, slugs, and certain other animals (including freshwater shrimp, land crabs, and frogs) can become infected by ingesting this larvae; these are considered intermediate hosts. Humans can become infected with A. cantonensis if they eat (intentionally or otherwise) a raw or undercooked infected intermediate host, thereby ingesting the parasite.
Sometimes people can become infected by eating raw produce that contains a small infected snail or slug, or part of one. It is not known for certain whether the slime left by infected snails and slugs are able to cause infection. Angiostrongyliasis is not spread person-to-person.
Symptoms of angiostrongyliasis may include severe headache, stiffness of the neck and back, skin tingling, pain and sensitivity, sensitivity to light, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting and sometimes coma and death.
There is no medication or specific treatment for the infection.
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