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Rat lungworm transmitted by many more species than slugs, snails

While many people know that rat lungworm disease can be spread to humans by slugs and snails, new research shows those creatures are not the only ones that have been transmitting the illness.

Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the University of London, UK, combed through nearly 140 scientific studies published between 1962–2022 and found 32 species of freshwater prawns/shrimp, crayfish, crabs, flatworms, fish, sea snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, centipedes, cattle, pigs and snails can act as carriers of the rat lungworm parasite (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). Of these, at least 13 species of prawns/shrimp, crabs, flatworms, fish, frogs, toads, lizards and centipedes have been associated with causing rat lungworm disease in humans.

Robert Cowie, senior author on the study and faculty member in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), supervised Helena Turck, first author and graduate student at the University of London, UK, who did this study as her master’s degree thesis research, remotely during the pandemic. Professor Mark Fox of the Royal Veterinary College also collaborated on the study.

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