Rat lungworm survives winter: experimental overwintering of Angiostrongylus cantonensis larvae in European slugs

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Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Parasitology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Web https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031182023000781
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182023000781
Keywords Angiostrongylus cantonensis; invasive nematode; Limax maximus; overwintering
Description The rat lungworm Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a metastrongyloid nematode that causes neurological disorders in its accidental hosts, including humans. This invasive pathogen is native to Southeast Asia and adjacent regions and is gradually expanding its distribution to tropical and subtropical areas with new foci discovered near temperate regions. The parasite has a complex life cycle with a range of gastropods serving as intermediate hosts. A broad spectrum of poikilotherm vertebrates and invertebrates can serve as paratenic hosts. Since it has already been demonstrated that other, non-zoonotic metastrongyloids can survive in their intermediate hosts during the winter, the aim of our study was to evaluate the survival of A. cantonensis third-stage larvae in experimentally infected slugs (Limax maximus) kept at 4.5-7 & DEG;C for 60 days. Third-stage larvae of A. cantonensis survived the period of low temperature and remained capable of infecting definitive hosts (laboratory rats) afterwards, even though their numbers dropped significantly. These results suggest that further spread to higher latitudes or altitudes is possible in areas with sufficient abundance of definitive hosts, since low winter temperatures are not necessarily an obstacle to the spread of the parasite.
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