A parasitic worm that can jump from one rat to another is becoming more common in rats in the southern United States, posing a threat to humans.
The rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, moves between snails and rodents to complete its life cycle.
Rats eat snails infected with worm larvae, which then migrate into the rat nervous system and mature into adult worms.
From there they wriggle their way into the rats lungs and lay eggs that hatch into new larvae.
Rat lungworm typically moves on to the digestive system and eventually to the snails.
Humans and other mammals rarely come into the picture when dealing with this parasite, unless they accidentally eat a snail or some other contaminated food.
In these cases, the parasite can cause a potentially serious brain infection called eosinophilic meningitis.
There is no specific treatment for this disease and it can result in complications and even death.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention