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:

Contact sports associated with Lewy body disease, Parkinson's disease symptoms, dementia
There is mounting evidence that repetitive head impacts from contact sports and other exposures are associated with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and dementia.
In kidney disease patients, illicit drug use linked with disease progression and death
Among individuals with chronic kidney disease, hard illicit drug use was associated with higher risks of kidney disease progression and early death.
Parkinson's disease among patients with inflammatory bowel disease
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease appeared more likely than patients without the disorder to develop Parkinson's disease, while anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy for inflammatory bowel disease was associated with reduced incidence of Parkinson's in a new study that analyzed administrative claims data for more than 170 million patients.
Despite reductions in infectious disease mortality in US, diarrheal disease deaths on the rise
Deaths from infectious diseases have declined overall in the United States over the past three decades.
Defects on regulators of disease-causing proteins can cause neurological disease
Mutations in human PUMILIO1, a gene that regulates Ataxin1 production, cause conditions similar to spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1).
Diabetes drug shows potential as disease-modifying therapy for Parkinson's disease
A drug commonly used to treat diabetes may have disease-modifying potential to treat Parkinson's disease, a new UCL-led study in The Lancet suggests, paving the way for further research to define its efficacy and safety.
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.
More Disease News and Disease Current Events

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

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.