ATLANTA — A parasitic brain worm that can be ingested through contaminated produce has been found in Atlanta, according to a study by independent researchers published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Angiostrongylus cantonensis, also known as “rat lungworm,” can cause parasitic meningitis in humans.
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According to a study from Dr. Nicole L. Gottdenker at the University of Georgia Athens, published by CDC in their Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, the worm was found in wild brown rats ”on the grounds of a zoological facility” in Atlanta in 2019 and 2022.
“A. cantonensis lungworm in urban rat populations, gastropod intermediate hosts, and other paratenic hosts in the populous greater Atlanta area pose a possible threat to the health of humans and domestic, free-ranging, and captive animals,” researchers wrote.
The study author wrote in a summary that the rat lungworm parasite is now endemic in multiple states across the U.S., mainly Hawaii, Texas, Louisana, Alabama and Florida.
Both Alabama and Florida are neighboring states to Georgia.
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People can get infected with the worm by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs or by eating raw produce. Some animals like freshwater shrimp, crabs and frogs have been found to be infected with the larvae of the parasite.
Most of the known infections of A. cantonensis have been found in Asia and the Pacific Islands.
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Some people infected with the worm show no symptoms or only show mild symptoms and recover. In some cases, the infection causes a rare type of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis, which causes headache, stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting.
There are no specific treatments for the infection.
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