MIAMI (March 15, 2014) Parasitic worms have been found in an invasive eel species that's made a home in Florida, U.S. Geological Survey officials say.
The worms were found in Asian swamp eels collected between 2010 and 2012 from Florida waters and from ethnic food markets in Orlando, Atlanta and New York City, the officials said.
The parasites could be transmitted to people who eat raw or undercooked eels, scientists warn.
Severe cases of the infection gnathostomiasis can lead to blindness, paralysis or death, scientists said.
"Consumers should be aware of the risk of contracting gnathostomiasis from Asian swamp eels if they are eating raw or undercooked eels," said Rebecca Cole, USGS scientist and lead author of the study.
Swamp eels transported live from Southeast Asia are sold in ethnic food markets nationwide and have also made their way into waters in Florida, Georgia and New Jersey.
The eels have few known predators in the U.S., can breathe air and can move across land.