A new test to detect rat lungworm disease draws doubt from the s - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

A new test to detect rat lungworm disease draws doubt from the state

(Image: University of Hawaii Hilo) (Image: University of Hawaii Hilo)
(Image: Kana Covington) (Image: Kana Covington)
BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A new method to detect rat lungworm disease is being doubted the State Department of Health despite one man saying it helped him fight the disease. 

Mainland surgeons removed a worm from Kana Covington's left eye. The Big Island man had the operation after an experimental blood test. 

"The test was what led me down that road thinking that it was rat lung," he said.

The blood test was developed by Susan Jarvi and other researchers at U.H. Hilo's College of Pharmacy as an alternative to the spinal tap doctors are using now to diagnose the condition.

"The spinal tap you're withdrawing cerebral spinal fluid. That's a more invasive and riskier procedure than taking a simple blood test," she said.

Jarvi wants to continue research on the blood test.

But scientists with the state Department of Health said blood tests for rat lungworm have poor track records, casting doubt on Covington's diagnosis.

"There are lot more questions that this case brings up rather than answers," state laboratory administrator Chris Whelen said. "There's a lot of things that are atypical about this case. There may be other medical things going on."

"It's very difficult to evaluate a test based on one patient. For this particular patient we don't know if he had been exposed in the past and then had antibodies before the test was even run," said Kenton Kramer, chair of the state's Rat Lungworm Task Force.

Jarvi believes the blood test could be a quicker simpler way to spot the disease. But she's running out of money to continue her research.

"There's definitely that possibility. If we don't get funding we have to stop research on that area," she said.

She also wants to expand her lab's research on vegetable washing methods to curb the disease.

Lawmakers killed funding for Jarvi's rat lungworm work but gave the state Health department $1 million to expand a prevention and education campaign.

Jarvi would like to get some of that money, but that's not likely to happen.

"At this time, DOH does not plan to fund any specific academic research initiatives related to rat lungworm disease as response, prevention and control are currently the main focus areas of the department," said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of the State Department of Health.

Covington's convinced he had rat lungworm and the blood test helped with the diagnosis. Covington said the mainland eye surgeon confirmed he had it. But Covington fears he'll never regain his sight. 

"The surgeon told me there me they're very doubtful. There's quite a bit of damage done inside the eye," he said.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

  • Hawaii News Now headlinesNewsMore>>

  • Lawyer: No apparent justification for fatal shooting of teen

    Lawyer: No apparent justification for fatal shooting of teen

    Thursday, June 21 2018 8:22 AM EDT2018-06-21 12:22:06 GMT
    Saturday, June 23 2018 4:38 AM EDT2018-06-23 08:38:44 GMT
    (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP). Leonard Hammonds II, of Penn Hills, right, points out that a Turtle Creek Police officer has his had on his weapon during a rally in East Pittsburgh, Pa., on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, at a protest regardin...(Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP). Leonard Hammonds II, of Penn Hills, right, points out that a Turtle Creek Police officer has his had on his weapon during a rally in East Pittsburgh, Pa., on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, at a protest regardin...

    Hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy killed just seconds after he fled a traffic stop during a confrontation partly captured on video.

    More >>

    Hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy killed just seconds after he fled a traffic stop during a confrontation partly captured on video.

    More >>
  • First lady visits migrant children housed in Texas

    First lady visits migrant children housed in Texas

    Thursday, June 21 2018 12:42 PM EDT2018-06-21 16:42:26 GMT
    Saturday, June 23 2018 4:36 AM EDT2018-06-23 08:36:45 GMT
    (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik). First lady Melania Trump arrives at McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas, Thursday, June 21, 2018, to visit the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center and the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Luthe...(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik). First lady Melania Trump arrives at McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas, Thursday, June 21, 2018, to visit the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center and the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Luthe...
    Melania Trump is visiting a Texas facility housing some of the more 2,300 migrant children sent there by the U.S. government after their families entered the country illegally.More >>
    Melania Trump is visiting a Texas facility housing some of the more 2,300 migrant children sent there by the U.S. government after their families entered the country illegally.More >>
  • High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

    High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

    Thursday, June 21 2018 10:32 AM EDT2018-06-21 14:32:03 GMT
    Saturday, June 23 2018 4:36 AM EDT2018-06-23 08:36:11 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko, File). FILE - This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington.  The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were lo...(AP Photo/Jessica Gresko, File). FILE - This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were lo...

    The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.

    More >>

    The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly