$300K allocated for rat lungworm research

HILO — The state Legislature announced Friday that a $300,000 allocation will be made in the state budget to fund rat lungworm disease research at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees announced a recurring funding provision of $300,000 to the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo for research programs related to the prevention and eradication of rat lungworm disease.

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Because the funding is recurring, Rep. Chris Todd, D-Hilo, said it will “in theory, keep going every year forever, or until it’s no longer needed.”

Todd said funding for rat lungworm research at UH-Hilo has been an issue since before he took office last year, and credited “half a dozen lawmakers” — including several East Hawaii representatives and senators — and several people at the university with finally getting the funding added to the budget.

“A lot of times the legislative process can seem complicated or cumbersome, but I think this is a good example of it working for everyone,” Todd said.

Because the allocation was made directly to the budget, two bills that also would have provided funding to the university have been rendered redundant, Todd said.

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The funding will support several research initiatives including tests on deworming procedures, produce washes, filters, ultraviolet systems and more.

Rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasite found in rats and is transmitted to slugs and snails. Humans who contract the parasite — typically through slime trails left by slugs or snails on produce — can sustain severe damage to the brain and spinal cord.