Gov’t Shutdown Stalls UH Research on Deadly Rat Disease

Research on a vaccination for rat lungworm disease — a potentially fatal gastrointestinal infection whose prevalence in Hawaii has grown rapidly in recently years — has been put on hold following the government shutdown. The research endeavor is the focus of an article today on the Huffington Post looking at how the closure is affecting scientific research across the country. 

Such projects were one of the first victims to feel the squeeze when the federal government shut its doors at the strike of midnight Oct. 1.

The University of Hawaii is just one of many research institutions caught in the crossfire. But the abrupt stoppage to vaccine work at UH Hilo shows just how much of a setback the shutdown could pose to important scientific research. 

Rat lungworm disease, an illness contracted from parasites on rats that causes a type of meningitis in humans, has proliferated in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands but is relatively unheard of in the continental US, according to researcher Susan Jarvi, an associate professor at UH Hilo. 

Until Tuesday, Jarvi was testing whether a vaccine developed in Spain could prove effective on rats in Hawaii.

Photo: The rat lungworm parasite. (Courtesy of Hawaii.edu)

— Alia Wong

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