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World's first case of human-borne rat disease discovered


Rat version of hepatitis E was first transmitted to humans

If animals transmit their diseases to humans, this can lead to a great health hazard with dramatic consequences. This is exactly what has happened in Hong Kong now. A rat version of hepatitis E was first transmitted to a human there. This transmission is of great importance for public health.

Researchers are now reporting for the first time on a case in which a rat version of hepatitis E has been transmitted to a human. The medical team will publish the report on this unusual case in December in the English-language journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases".

Rat hepatitis E can also infect humans

So far, there has been no evidence that the disease can be transmitted from rats to humans, and the current finding is therefore of great importance for public health, experts from the University of Hong Kong report in the South China Morning Post. . The current study proves for the first time in the world that hepatitis E can also infect humans and cause clinical infection there, the experts add.

56 year old man was infected

The disease was diagnosed in a 56-year-old man who had repeated abnormal liver function tests after a liver transplant. At that time the patient was treated with immunosuppressive drugs for the operation. The tests indicated problems with his liver transplant.

There were signs of rat infestation around the man

There were various signs of rat infestation outside the patient's home. Doctors suspect that the victim may have been infected by the disease because of the consumption of food contaminated with rat droppings. The exact way of transmission is still unclear. Rodent faecal tests, swab specimens from the drain and floor of the garbage collector, and even rats in the area were tested negative for rat hepatitis E. However, frozen samples of a rat that were collected by the district's food and environmental hygiene authorities in 2012 were found to contain the virus.

The affected person is treated with ribavirin

The patient is now on the mend in terms of health after being treated for the virus with an oral medication called ribavirin.

How do people usually get hepatitis E?

The rat hepatitis E virus is very distantly related to human hepatitis E virus variants, the researchers explain. The human version of hepatitis E is a liver disease that affects 20 million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is usually spread through contaminated drinking water. It is known that the hepatitis E virus is transmitted via food or water contaminated by faeces that contain the pathogens. It is also possible to get the virus by eating uncooked meat from infected animals and by blood transfusion from infected donors. Symptoms of the disease include fever, vomiting and jaundice, and in rare cases, acute liver failure and even death.

Hong Kong suffers from a rat infestation

The rodent problems in Hong Kong have escalated in recent months. Rodent control officials have reported double-digit growth in demand for their services in recent months. This is due to the persistently hot and humid weather, the experts explain. Last year, the so-called rodent infestation rate for the entire city was 3.5 percent from June to December, compared to 4 percent in the same period last year. However, officials admitted that the numbers do not fully reflect the situation in individual districts. (as)

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