The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, recently issued a statement recounting the increase in reports of a rare form of the parasite rat lungworm, known to take up residence in the brain.
The parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, originates in rats. A rat will ingest the parasite, which will then penetrate the intestines and go straight to the brain. Then it will come back to the pulmonary artery and lay eggs. In humans, the parasite stops at the brain, and never develops into a worm.
According to federal health officials, in recent years there were reports within the continental US of up to 12 people, including toddlers having been diagnosed with the parasite. Officials also stated that there were probably more cases that went unreported, as the symptoms of having contracted the parasite are not usually severe in nature. It is of note that reports of the parasite have been found across several states.
The rat lungworm made recent headlines just last month, after reports that the parasite had infected two individuals in China, who had ingested raw centipedes.
US residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control, may contract the parasite by way of eating snails or even vegetables out of home gardens.
Several of those reported as infected in the US were small children, who were known to crawl around outside. One child was reported to have eaten dirt, and the others are thought to have eaten snails or slugs.
As for the adults with the parasite, they are reported as having eaten fresh vegetables out of the garden. It is speculated they may have unknowingly ingested a snail or a slug. Officials stated that eating undercooked shellfish can play a part in contracting the rat lungworm.
Travelers are at risk for the parasite for infection more so than most. Although six of the cases identified by the CDC since 2011 were reported in Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama, it is thought that the rest were travelers who may have ingested the parasite while overseas.