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A medical mystery reveals a new host for the rat lungworm parasite

This disease can be spread by eating centipedes, frogs, snails and other creatures

By
5:00pm, July 30, 2018
Chinese red-headed centipede

COOK BEFORE EATING  The Chinese red-headed centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans) carries a parasite that can infect humans with rat lungworm disease when eaten raw.

When a 78-year-old woman went to a hospital in Guangzhou, China, in November 2012 complaining of a headache, drowsiness and a stiff neck, doctors initially were puzzled. The patient had meningitis, but no signs of bacteria or viruses that can cause the illness. Then a cerebrospinal fluid test revealed she had a high number of white blood cells called eosinophils, a clue that she was fighting a parasitic infection. That helped the doctors zero in on a culprit: a thin, swirly-patterned worm called Angiostrongylus cantonensis. The woman was suffering from rat lungworm disease. So was her adult son.

But how were the pair infected? Rat lungworm disease, which gets its name from the fact that the worm eggs hatch in the lungs of rats, is commonly associated with ingesting snails or slugs (SN Online: 7/21/16). Infected rats poop out the worm larvae, which

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