Assessing the public health concern of Angiostrongylus cantonensis and the biodiversity of parasitic nematodes in Central Florida

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Florida Southern College
The rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is native to southeast Asia, but has invaded many areas around the world with the spread of its intermediate (snail) and definitive (rat) hosts. Humans are incidental hosts for Angiostrongylus cantonensis. When people ingest an infected gastropod intermediate host, the larval stage of the parasitic nematode migrates to the central nervous system where it is unable to complete development, and eventually dies. Indeed, presence of the nematode in children and adults manifests itself as eosinophilic meningitis. Several cases of human infection in the United States have been reported in Texas and Louisiana, and a handful of small-scale studies have indicated A. cantonensis in snails of southern Florida. Our project provides the first intensive survey of terrestrial snails along the I-4 corridor in Central Florida. Through morphological and molecular techniques, the biodiversity of nematode species parasitizing terrestrial gastropods at thirteen heavily trafficked parks and green spaces was observed and the geographic distribution of native and non-native snail species infected with A. cantonensis was assessed. Our results suggest that the prevalence and intensity of nematodes infecting terrestrial snails are low, but morphological analysis does indicate the presence of rat lungworm. There is the potential risk of transmission to humans in these green spaces, as well as the potential need for monitoring intermediate host infections, especially as invasive snails become more common.
Honors thesis Spring 2019
Lungworms, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, Meningitis, Eosinophil disorders, Florida