Angiostrongylus cantonensis (the rat lungworm) is a zoonotic parasite of non-permissive accidental (dogs, humans, horses, marsupials, birds) hosts. The 3rd stage larvae (L3s) in the intermediate host (molluscs) act as the source of infection for accidental hosts through ingestion. Larvae can spontaneously emerge from dead gastropods (slugs and snails) in water, which are experimentally infective to rats. We sought to identify the time when infective A. cantonensis larvae can autonomously leave dead experimentally infected Bullastra lessoni snails. The proportion of A. cantonensis larvae that emerge from crushed and submerged B. lessoni is higher in snails 62 days post-infection (DPI) (30.3%). The total larval burden of snails increases at 91 DPI, indicating that emerged larvae subsequently get recycled by the population. There appears to be a window of opportunity between 1 and 3 months for infective larvae to autonomously escape dead snails. From a human and veterinary medicine viewpoint, the mode of infection needs to be considered; whether that be through ingestion of an infected gastropod, or via drinking water contaminated with escaped larvae.
Keywords: Angiostrongylus cantonensis; Bullastra lessoni; angiostrongyliasis; aquatic snail; experimental infection; intermediate host; rat lungworm; transmission pathways.