UH Med Now
Six University of Hawaiʻi faculty on Rat Lungworm Task Force, including four from JABSOM
By Kelli Trifoniovitch, University of Hawai’i
As of late April 2017, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health had confirmed 13 cases of rat lungworm disease since the start of the year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the parasitic worm (Angiostrgonylus cantonensis) can invade the central nervous system and cause a rare form of meningitis.
The University of Hawaiʻi is addressing rat lungworm in diverse ways across the island state, including assessing its distribution statewide, determining which species of snails and slugs can carry it, doing experiments to determine the best ways to wash produce to keep it safe and undertaking extensive educational and outreach efforts.
William L. Gosnell, immunology, UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
Susan Jarvi, pharmaceutical science, UH Hilo, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
Kenton Kramer, parasitology, UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
Marian Melish, pediatrics, UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
F. DeWolfe Miller, IV, epidemiology, UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
As the name implies, the rat lungworm is a parasite only of rats and a few other rodents. Infected rats pass the larvae of the parasite in their feces, which are then eaten by snails and slugs. Humans are accidental hosts who do not transmit infection to others, but can become infected by eating raw infected snails or slugs (or parts of them), which are often accidentally left on produce that has not been sufficiently washed.