Couple contracts rare, brain-invading parasite called 'rat lungworm' as epidemic spreads


Two California newlyweds have unfortunately spent a lot of time in the hospital since tying the knot earlier this year in Hawaii.

Eliza Lape, 57, and Ben Manilla, 64, contracted Angiostrongylus cantonensis, commonly referred to as rat lungworm disease, while spending their honeymoon in Hana, Maui.

Lape's symptoms started before the pair returned home to San Francisco, where both of their conditions worsened exponentially, according to KGMB.

"My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body," said Lape.

Manilla, who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, spent a month in the ICU following the trip and is still in the hospital undergoing intensive rehabilitation.

Hawaiian authorities are currently investigate the rising number of cases of the brain-invading parasite.

The Hawaii State Department of Health has confirmed nine cases of rat lungworm disease, with six recorded on the island of Maui and three more cases reported on the Big Island over the past three months, according to CNN.

No deaths have yet been reported.

According to the CDC, people can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that are infected with this parasite, or by eating raw produce such as lettuce that contains a small snail or slug or part of one.

Certain animals, such as freshwater shrimp, crabs and frogs, can become infected with the larvae of the parasite, and thus can be unsafe to eat if they are undercooked.

Although there is no specific treatment available for the disease, a rat lungworm diagnosis is far from a death sentence.

Since the parasites cannot mature or reproduce in humans, they will eventually die off after unleashing their wrath of unpleasant side effects on the host.

Infected patients can instead be given fluids and medication to help alleviate pain, and potentially steroids in more serious cases.

The department warns against treating rat lungworm with anti-parasitic drugs over fears that they could actually make symptoms worse.