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GIANT eight-inch snails are invading Miami.

GIANT eight-inch snails are invading Miami.

By LAURA CAROE

Pest controllers in the Florida city have launched a huge fight back against the creatures — that will eat almost any type of plant and can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco.

Officials have said the African land snails — which have both male and female reproductive systems — are among the most dangerous in the world.

The slimy critters sometimes carry a parasite that can infect humans with a non-lethal strain of meningitis, they eat at least 500 different types of plants, and are prolific breeders who lay around 1,200 eggs a year.

Thousands of them have infested at least five neighbourhoods in the Miami area.

Homeowners who have discovered the creatures described them as disgusting.

The snails’ engorged bodies extend far from their shells, and they eat so ravenously that they leave trails of excrement on walls and the ground.

The pests are now being hunted house by house in the affected areas.

Since the snails were first detected last month, around 10,000 have been collected from just 114 properties.

It is not the first time they have plagued Miami — in 1996 a boy bought three home from a trip to Hawaii.

His grandmother released them into the garden and it took authorities almost a decade to wipe their offspring out — costing more than £649,100.

Officials snared up to 18,000 snails.

The creatures are originally from East Africa and can now be found in the Pacific Rim, Hawaii and on several Caribbean islands.