Grim discovery as scientists find ‘rat lungworm’ for the first time in Europe in Valencian rats

The ‘rat lungworm’ parasite has been discovered in both sewer rats and black rats in Valencia.

SCIENTISTS have made a gruesome discovery in Valencia, identifying the ‘Angiostrongylus cantonensis’ parasite in two species of rat in the city, which can cause meningitis in humans.

The grim discovery was announced on Monday, January 16 and marGks the first time the parasite also known as ‘rat lungworm’ has been detected in continental Europe. Researchers are concerned about the health risks posed to the public by rat lungworm as it can attack the nervous system.

Infection is not common but the parasite can be spread to humans through raw or badly-cooked meat or other foods including lettuce.

Researchers from the University of Valencia studied 90 sewer rats and black rats, finding the parasite in nine per cent of the specimen. Lead researcher, María Teresa Galán described it as “an emerging parasite, which is spreading”, and encouraged the public to be mindful of food hygiene but to remain calm.

The parasite’s Latin name refers to the Chinese city of Canton where it was first discovered in 1935. Until now the parasite has been limited to tropical and subtropical zones. Researchers believe that the new European emergence could be due to climate change, causing the parasite to spread outside of typical patterns.

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