Parasitic Worms Are Killing Florida Pygmy Snakes

Screengrab / Terry Farrell / YouTube

The parasite could spread throughout the United States.

According to USA Today, parasitic worms spread by Burmese Pythons are killing Florida pygmy snakes. Researchers found the worms in Central Florida, over 100 miles from where the Burmese pythons live in southern Florida. The parasite is traveling via reptiles and other host creatures that Florida snakes eat. There is now a risk that the worms could spread beyond Florida.

"At this point, they are moving very rapidly. They are certainly in Brevard County," said Terence Farrell, a biologist at Stetson University and lead author of the study. "It's conceivable they will spread throughout the whole United States."

These parasites are not a health risk to humans."There are relatives of this parasite that people have gotten by eating raw snakes," Farrell said. "There isn't a human health concern at this time."

The study authors believe that the pentastome parasites have killed three pygmy rattlesnakes at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The parasites lodge in the lungs of reptiles that are infected after eating contaminated prey.

Research has found major declines in pygmy rattlesnakes in the Everglades over the past 15 years, and they suspect many more rattlesnakes could be dying from the parasites.

“The research tells us that there’s a whole new concern about invasive species and the diseases and parasites that they bring with them,” Farrell said. “This parasite isn’t just a Florida problem. We have no idea how much of the U.S. this parasite will spread and move into, which may cause it to become a nationwide problem in a few years.”

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