Nav: Home

Researchers predict distribution of rat lungworm, now and into future

July 31, 2018

A recent study by University of Hawai'i at Mānoa researchers revealed that Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm, is widespread in the Hawaiian Islands and its distribution may expand, especially towards higher elevations, as the climate warms.

Rat lungworm is a parasitic nematode with a complicated lifecycle, part of which requires living inside snails and slugs. Human infection by this parasite, known as angiostrongyliasis, is considered an emerging infectious disease. The range and incidence of this disease are expanding throughout the tropics and subtropics, including in the Hawaiian Islands, making this work especially timely.

Using molecular techniques to screen almost 1300 snails and slugs representing 37 species from almost 200 sites across the Hawaiian Islands, the team determined rat lungworm was present in numerous species of snails and slugs on five of the six largest islands (it may be present on all islands but just not detected). Further, rat lungworm tended to occur in warmer and rainier locations, generally, but not exclusively, windward.

Knowledge of where rat lungworm is or could be across the Hawaiian Islands, right now, is important from the perspective of prevention of human and animal infection.

"Local residents and visitors need to know what the risks are," said Robert Cowie, senior author on the study and research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). "The data will be important to the State of Hawai'i Department of Health in targeting epidemiological surveys and interventions. But it is important to remember that it is not possible to say that rat lungworm is absent from locations where we did not detect it. One can never do a totally comprehensive survey of all snails present in Hawai'i and so people must not be complacent and assume, for instance, that based on this study rat lungworm is not in their yards."  

By assessing factors affecting the parasite's distribution, the study projected its potential future distribution in Hawai'i, with implications for its global expansion. The team developed mathematical models that allowed a prediction of the likely areas across the islands where rat lungworm could occur, if it is not there already, and projected its distribution based on anticipated climate conditions in the year 2100.

Under these future climate conditions, rat lungworm was predicted to expand its range to higher elevations in Hawai'i. The findings imply that the parasite could also expand its primarily tropical and subtropical range globally to regions that are currently more temperate.

"From a global perspective, the knowledge of where rat lungworm is or could be present currently, combined with our projections of its future potential distribution have implications for the future spread of rat lungworm disease globally," said Cowie. "Rat lungworm disease has been considered globally as a neglected but emerging infectious disease."

Added Jaynee Kim, lead author on the study as a UH graduate student and now a malacology researcher at Bishop Museum, "A major motivation for my research was to help people to make informed decisions. We encourage the public to buy local and support Hawai?i's economy but, at the same time, to be vigilant about washing produce, especially to inspect and wash greens leaf by leaf. Buying and planting native plants instead of non-native plants can also help keep invasive snail hosts from being introduced and spread throughout the islands."
-end-


University of Hawaii at Manoa

Related Disease Articles:

Findings support role of vascular disease in development of Alzheimer's disease
Among adults who entered a study more than 25 years ago, an increasing number of midlife vascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking, were associated with elevated levels of brain amyloid (protein fragments linked to Alzheimer's disease) later in life, according to a study published by JAMA.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Study links changes in oral microbiome with metabolic disease/risk for dental disease
A team of scientists from The Forsyth Institute and the Dasman Diabetes Institute in Kuwait have found that metabolic diseases, which are characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity -- leads to changes in oral bacteria and puts people with the disease at a greater risk for poor oral health.
Fatty liver disease contributes to cardiovascular disease and vice versa
For the first time, researchers have shown that a bi-directional relationship exists between fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease.
Seroprevalence and disease burden of chagas disease in south Texas
A paper published in PLOS Neglected Diseases led by researchers at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine suggests that the disease burden in southern Texas is much higher than previously thought.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
Citrus fruits could help prevent obesity-related heart disease, liver disease, diabetes
Oranges and other citrus fruits are good for you -- they contain plenty of vitamins and substances, such as antioxidants, that can help keep you healthy.
Gallstone disease may increase heart disease risk
A history of gallstone disease was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.
New disease gene will lead to better screening for pediatric heart disease
Cardiomyopathy, or a deterioration of the ability of the heart muscle to contract, generally leads to progressive heart failure.
Early weight loss in Parkinson's disease patients may signify more serious form of disease
A study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator finds evidence of an association between weight loss in patients with early Parkinson's disease and more rapid disease progression.

Related Disease Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".