Snails carry brain-eating roundworm, doctors warn

By Thanh Tung - Luong Ngoc, Thanh Nien News

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This nine-year-old boy was hospitalized on July 14 after eating a land snail that carry the meningitis-causing roundworm. Photo: Luong Ngoc This nine-year-old boy was hospitalized on July 14 after eating a land snail that carry the meningitis-causing roundworm. Photo: Luong Ngoc
A nine-year-old boy in Ho Chi Minh City was recently hospitalized for meningitis after eating snails addled with a dangerous roundworm.
Doctors at the city’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases said the boy, identified only as D, was hospitalized for high fever, vomiting and severe headaches.
D. said he caught a land snail near his home, grilled it and ate it before his symptoms appeared.
Subsequent test found D. had picked up an Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a roundworm that causes meningitis in humans.
The parasite is commonly found in land snails (Achatina fulica) – an invasive plant-eating snail also known as the African Land Snail.
Despite warnings about the snail's serious health hazards, many in Vietnam continue to eat the snails as a snack or as a holistic curative.
The HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases treats several cases of severe meningitis caused by consumption of the snail every year.
One such patient, a 47-year-old woman from An Giang Province recently died ten days after being admitted to the hospital. Her relatives said she had been advised to eat the snails as a cure for her chronic stomachaches. The "treatment" caused severe headaches which gradually resulted in a coma, several days later.
Subsequent tests found she that roundworms living in the snails had killed her.
Doctors say many people have been hospitalized after eating land snails while drinking, some of those patients have survived with severe paralysis.
Dr Truong Huu Khanh of the HCMC Children's Hospital No. 1 said his hospital admits dozens of children with meningitis caused by eating land snails, some of his patients reported only playing with the snails without eating them.
“The parasite is common in land snails and can damage the brain, causing serious complications and even death,” he said.
According to Dr Nguyen Hoang Phu of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, most patients hospitalized after eating land snails ate them for medicinal purposes or as a drinking snack.
“No scientific studies have ascribed land snail with any medicinal properties,” he said.
Despite that fact, the snails are being widely sold online accompanied by advertisements for treating several diseases, including arthritis. Some have even advised potential buyers to eat them half-cooked.

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