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What Is Rat Lungworm? Know About The Rare Disease

This is one such disease that has become a hot topic of discussion these days. By now most of you would have come across the disease Rat Lungworm. What is Rat Lungworm parasite? Rat Lungworm also referred to as Angiostrongylus Cantonensis is a parasite that lives in rodents (rats).

This adult worm is found in rats. The parasite can infect snails and slugs which come in contact with the infected rat's feces. Humans are at the risk of getting rat lungworm disease when they consume raw or undercooked snails, slugs, prawns and crabs that contain lungworm larvae.

There is also the possibility of your nervous system getting damaged after ingesting snails or slugs, which is infected by this parasite. Apart from snails, even frogs or shrimps can be the hosts of the developing worm.

And when humans consume the infected snails, slugs or shrimps, they cab contract the disease. It is reported that a person who contracts the disease will have serious health issues that can affect the brain and spinal cord.

Humans are infected by the intake of larvae found in intermediate hosts like snails and slugs. Even prawns, crab, frog and vegetables can get contaminated with the slime of infected snails. Humans get infected after the ingestion of larvae found in raw or undercooked snails or vegetables or contaminated water.

Usually, humans are infected when the third stage larvae gets into the intermediate host (such as fresh water prawns or snails). After consumption, the larvae penetrate into the intestinal wall and then reach the CNS through the blood stream.

The parasite's natural host is rats and it tends to peter out once it enters the human body. Here are certain things you need to know about the Rat Lungworm disease.

Parasitic Worm

Rat lungworm is caused by parasitic nematode. It is the adult form found in rats. They begin to host the worm and slowly the larvae moves through the feces and later transfers to the slugs and snails that start to feed on them.

This disease is most common in Pacific Islands, Australia and Asia. In 1993, it was reported that a child from New Orleans got the disease after consuming snail, however, there wasn't much major health issues, as his symptoms went away in a span of few weeks without treatment.


Eating infected snail or slugs can turn out to be an inconvenience for humans, since the symptoms can range from nausea, vomiting and even coma.

People can become a victim to this infection if they consume raw snail or slugs that contain lungworm larvae. It can be present in lettuce (eating raw or unwashed foods) and even in soft drinks.

The soft drinks can get contaminated by the substance excreted by the affected snails. Even pups can get infected with this parasitic disease if they unintentionally try to swallow or eat the infected snail or slugs.

Specific Treatment

The symptoms of rat lungworm disease are quite similar to other diseases and this makes it difficult to diagnose. There is no specific treatment for RLW, yet it can take a few months for the person to completely recover without treatment.

There is no special cure or medication for curing this disease. The infections are highly unpredictable. It depends on the patient's level of exposure. For some people, it can cause loss of limb function, hallucination or paralysis.

Extreme Forms Of Disease

It is an extremely rare infection. There is no vaccine or preventative treatment for people who have been exposed to this infection. This is rarely fatal; nevertheless, it can sometimes cause harsh meningitis.

Rat lungworm can cause infection in the brain. This infection doesn't spread from person to person. Rat lungworm is not a communicable disease.

Damages The Nervous System

Humans can have their nervous system damaged after contracting Angiostrongylus Cantonensis or Rat Lungworm (by ingestion of slugs or snails infected by this infection).

Certain Symptoms

There are a few who don't show any symptoms at all, while there are a few who could manage with short-lived symptoms. For some, it can even cause the infection called eosinophilic meningoncephalitis.

People affected with this condition do get headaches and tingling pain in the skin. Symptoms persist for several weeks or months. Once infected with this disease, it doesn't mean you won't be infected with this infection in the future. If your immune system is relatively good, it does help a person to recover soon.


Most described cases of this infection have been in Asia and the Pacific Basin (some parts of Thailand, Taiwan, mainland China and the other Pacific Islands). The severe form of this disease has occurred in Louisiana, South Pacific, Asia, Australia, Hawaii and the Caribbean. However, there are many cases reported in other parts of the world. The incubation period for this disease is 1 to 6 weeks.

Other Symptoms

The symptoms of rat lungworm disease are very similar to other diseases; however, it is tricky to diagnose it. The most common signs are abnormal skin sensations, headache, stiff neck, nausea, body aches, fatigue and other types of meningitis. It can even cause low-grade fever. There have been a few cases associated with paralysis or blindness.


It is important to properly store and inspect leafy greens. Watch your children when they play outdoors and prevent them from putting snails or slugs in their mouth. Always try to keep your home gardens clean and make sure to control and prevent snails and rats entering your premises.

Read more about: diseases health disorders
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