How to Care for Six Horrifying Parasites

Cantonensis Love
Wikimedia Commons

Angiostrongylus cantonensis is an excellent choice for the discerning parasite owner -- especially those fond of fine French cuisine. Also known as the rat lungworm, A. Cantonensis typically carries out its lifecycle between rats and various species of snails and slugs. In other words, humans aren't typically on the menu -- unless you happen to feast on some raw or undercooked freshwater snails, slugs, shrimp, crabs or frogs.

Keeping any pet can be a headache and A. Cantonensis is no exception. No, seriously, they prefer to live in your brain so you're going to get headaches -- plus maybe stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, fever and skin irritation. In some cases, the parasite can also cause a rare type of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Even if you manage to avoid medical treatment, rat lungworms die out on their own in a human host. But take heart! Once you've processed your grief (as well as the toxins released by the parasite's death), then your next A. Cantonensis may be as close as the nearest garden slug. Sometimes even a little unwashed lettuce is enough!

Other selections: While the rat lungworm can prove quite a memorable pet, some owners simply can't cope with the inevitable loss or all the snail eating. For these individuals, Cryptosporidium hominis and cutaneous leishmaniasis provide a nice alternative -- so long as you're cool with massive sores or diarrhea.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.