Angiostrongylus cantonensis, often called the rat lungworm, is a parasitic nematode (roundworm) that primarily infects rodents, especially rats. It has recently been spreading in southeastern America.
Key Information about Angiostrongylus cantonensis:
Natural Habitat: This parasitic worm is commonly found in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.
Hosts: While rats are the primary hosts for this parasite, it can also infect humans and other animals, including snails and slugs, as incidental hosts.
Transmission: The parasite is transmitted through rat feces and can infect humans and other animals when they come into contact with contaminated produce or food items.
Impact on Humans:
Infection Consequences: When Angiostrongylus cantonensis enters the human body, it can lead to a rare brain infection known as eosinophilic meningitis.
Symptoms: Symptoms of this infection may include headaches, a stiff neck, tingling sensations, fevers, vomiting, or skin discomfort.
Spontaneous Resolution: In most cases, infections tend to resolve on their own over time without specific treatment because the parasite cannot survive for extended periods in the human body.
Severe Cases: However, in severe instances, the worm can induce coma or even result in death in humans, and it can also infect pets.
Lack of Specific Treatment: Currently, there is no specific treatment available for Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
Symptomatic Relief: Treatment mainly focuses on managing the symptoms of the infection. This may involve pain medication for headaches or medications to alleviate the body's reaction to the parasite.
This parasitic worm, although typically self-limiting in humans, can pose serious health risks in severe cases, emphasizing the importance of preventive measures and awareness.