Veterinary student spent the summer investigating snails

Marisa Pierluisi examining an alligator snail.

For Immediate Release: September 3, 2019

BATON ROUGE, LA.—This summer, Marisa Pierluisi, veterinary student from Birmingham, Ala., in the Class of 2022, worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on a project investigating the potential for apple snails to be an intermediate host for the giant liver fluke. The apple snail (Pomacea maculata) is an aquatic invasive species that causes agricultural and environmental damage; however, there are not many studies that look into its impact on human and animal health.

The giant liver fluke (Fascioloides magna) is a parasite of deer and elk in North America that uses aquatic snails as intermediate hosts. In January, Pierluisi reached out to James LaCour, DVM (LSU SVM 1991), the state wildlife veterinarian, with an inquiry about opportunities to experience wildlife research under the supervision of a wildlife veterinarian, and together they created this project.

During the spring semester, Pierluisi delved into the literature and created a protocol. Then, she spent the summer exploring swamps and bayous in south Louisiana and collecting snails to test for the presence of the giant liver fluke. Pierluisi is awaiting lab results.

“I am very lucky to have been able to have such a wonderful experience in research,” said Pierluisi. “Additionally, I got to experience Louisiana wildlife close-up—maybe too close in the case of a curious alligator. I even got to a see a Legacy cypress that had a plaque saying it was alive at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. I am grateful for everyone at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for all the assistance they gave.”

Pierluisi plans to pursue a career in wildlife medicine following graduation.

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. The LSU SVM is dedicated to improving the lives of people and animals through education, research and service. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.

Alligator snail on a scale
Alligator underwater in a bayou
Marisa Pierluisi at a conference to present her work

Media Contact

Ginger Guttner, APR 

Communications Manager

LSU School of Veterinary Medicine

O: 225-578-9922 C: 225-772-8957