The Finding of Angiostrongylus Cantonensis in Rats in New Orleans

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  • Department of Tropical Medicine, Tulane Medical Center, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112

Twenty of 94 (21.4%) Rattus norvegicus trapped in New Orleans, Louisiana, between April 1986 and February 1987 were infected with Angiostrongylus cantonensis (3–62 worms per rat). This is the first report of the parasite from North America. A carnivorous snail, Euglandina rosea, was found experimentally to be able to serve as both an intermediate and a paratenic host. Other locally occurring gastropods that were successfully infected experimentally included Mesodon thyroidus, Anguispira alternata, Bradybaena similaris, Subulina octona, Polygyra triodontoides, Vaginulus ameghini, Philomycus carolinianus, Deroceras laeve, Limax flavus, and Lehmannia poirieri. Laboratory reared, 4- to 5-week-old M. thyroidus and D. laeve were able to support the development of small numbers of larvae to the third stage. First stage larvae of A. cantonensis in the feces of experimentally infected rats were found not to migrate out of the fecal pellet; this behavior favors the infection of feces-consuming gastropods. Twenty heavily infected L. flavus were observed over a period of 2 months, and shedding of third stage larvae of A. cantonensis was never seen. While factors support the spread of A. cantonensis in rats in the southern United States, the probability of human infection is uncertain since the parasite is transmitted primarily by ingestion of raw intermediate and paratenic hosts.