Health Editor’s Note: I am not sure how relevant this will be to my readers, but if you eat “raw” centipedes, you need to read this. Maybe if you eat cooked centipedes that will be okay. Not so sure about eating centipedes at all, but that is my humble opinion. Eating centipedes at all is definitely an individualized taste. According to this article it is possible that you could be unintentionally infected by parasites that lurk in the host, the centipedes.
A bit of medical background: Eosinophils are a type of white blood cells that are involved with the immune system and among other jobs, are tasked with fighting multicellular parasites and infections in vertebrates, those of us with spinal cords. They are also heavily involved in allergic reactions and asthma. Eosinophils, like red blood cells, do not have the ability to multiply thus your body will continually make eosinophils if you have a normal blood system. There are many types of white blood cells and eosinophils make up only 1 to 3% of your blood cells.
The disease producer here is Angiostrongylus cantonensis which is a parasite found in the centipedes. So the centipedes are also infected and when you eat them, you also receive that infection. You do not have to be just eating centipedes, as A. cantonensis can be found in raw or nearly raw slugs, frogs, fish, snails, and monitor lizards as well as any vegetable or salad that has been contaminated by an insect.
Ingestion of this parasite can cause angiostrongyliasis which is a foodborne-parasitic disease, and this disease can lead to eosinophilic meningitis or meningoencephalitis. Meningitis is inflammation of the three coverings of the brain and symptoms can include stiff neck, sudden high fever, severe headache, like the worst you have ever had, seizures, inability to concentrate, extreme sleepiness, difficulty in walking, light hurts your eyes, lack of appetite, lack of thirst, and skin rash which usually relates to meningococcal meningitis.
So, I guess the warning here is that if you are eating raw or poorly cooked centipedes, frogs, fish, slugs, snails, and let us not forget the monitor lizard, you are dancing with a parasite that can cause you health problems. Be forewarned……..Carol
Foodborne Parasite Tied to Eating Raw Centipedes
Chinese offer first report of ‘rat lungworm’ infection through multi-legged bug consumption
by Molly Walker, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
A woman and her adult son had antibodies to the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis after consuming raw centipedes purchased from a vegetable market in China, researchers found.
This marks the first report of the A. cantonensis parasite (often called “rat lungworm”) potentially being transmitted through an intermediate centipede host, wrote Huijie Wang, MD, of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, and colleagues in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
“We don’t typically hear of people eating raw centipedes, but apparently these two patients believed that raw centipedes would be good for their health,” co-author Lingli Lu, MD, of Zhujiang Hospital in Guangzhou, China, said in a statement. “Instead it made them sick.”
Wang’s group wrote that humans typically are exposed to A. cantonensis through eating “raw or poorly cooked snails, slugs, monitor lizards, frogs, and fish” or vegetables or salads that were contaminated by these hosts. The parasite can cause angiostrongyliasis, a foodborne-parasitic disease, and can lead to eosinophilic meningitis or meningoencephalitis, the authors said.
While A. cantonensis is mainly found in China and Southeast Asia, the authors noted it has been detected around the globe, including parts of the U.S. — prior research discovered A. cantonensis in the invasive apple snail in Louisiana and in the invasive giant African land snail in south Florida.
The researchers examined two cases: a woman, age 78, who presented to the hospital with headache, drowsiness, and cognitive impairment. Analysis of her cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) indicated an increased number of eosinophils and antibodies to A. cantonensis. Her medical history revealed that she consumed raw centipedes on a number of occasions.
A few weeks later, the woman’s son, age 46, complained of a “mild headache lasting longer than 20 days.” Tests of his blood and CSF also revealed an increased number of eosinophils, as well as antibodies to A. cantonensis, the authors wrote. Both patients were treated with a 21-day course of albendazole (an anti-parasitic drug) and dexamethasone (a steroid).
They noted that the symptoms of both patients were “very light,” and that changes in CSF were atypical, so the diagnosis could only be confirmed with the presence of A. cantonensis antibodies.
Researchers then set off to the market to find the smoking gun — or centipede. They collected 20 centipedes from the same location, with an average of 56 larvae in each. Then they extracted the DNA and analyzed it, concluding that “both the etiological examination and the PCR analysis suggested that centipedes might be the hosts of A. cantonensis.”
They bought 30 more centipedes and divided them into two groups — 10 centipedes as a control and 20 that were infected with A. cantonensis. The control group tested negative, they said, but the centipedes in group 2 died as a result of infection, so the authors concluded they “remain uncertain whether the centipede is an intermediate host of A. cantonensis.”
“This study shows why it’s important to have physician scientists who can both treat patients and identify and investigate unusual cases that may have broader implications for public health,” Regina Rabinovich, MD, president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, said in a statement.
The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, and the Studying Abroad Project of Southern Medical University.
Wang and co-authors disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.
American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Source Reference: Wang H, et al “Eating centipedes can result in Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection: Two case reports and pathogen investigation” Am J Trop Med Hyg 2018; DOI:10.4269/ajtmh.18-0151.