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Stetson professor discovers bloodsucking worms that could spread, harm eco-system


DELAND, Fla. (WESH) — A biology professor at Stetson University has discovered bloodsucking worms inside three dead rattlesnakes and there is concern the worms could spread to the rest of the country in a matter of years.

Dr. Terence Farrell said that while he was examining a dead rattlesnake, live, parasitic worms began crawling out of its mouth. He described the situation as “pretty alarming.”

The worms have been found in pythons in South Florida – but now that they are in Central Florida there are increased worries for the rest of the country.

The DNA sequences of the parasites found in the pygmy rattlesnakes were consistent with the parasite species from southeast Asia, which is normally found in Burmese pythons.

Farrell and his team of researchers have found the parasites in Central Florida, which is more than 100 miles away from where the Burmese pythons reside in the southern portion of the state.

“Our research shows that the parasites are moving north rapidly along the peninsula and appear to have some major health effects on pygmy rattlesnakes,” said Farrell.

The major concern is the potential impact on the ecosystem if too many of snakes are killed by the parasite.

“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,” Farrell said.

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