World's First Human Case Of Rat Disease Found

World's First Human Case Of Rat Disease Found

A man in Hong Kong is the first human to become infected with a type of hepatitis E infection that's only been seen in rats.

Doctors discovered the case when tests on the man showed abnormal liver function following a liver transplant.

Experts at the University of Hong Kong found the unnamed 56-year-old man's home had signs of being infested with the rodents. The human-specific version of hepatitis E, which is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), is rare in Australia, but it's quite common in many parts of the world, according to the US Centres for Disease Control.

"Previous laboratory experiments have found that rat hepatitis E virus can not be transmitted to monkeys, and human hepatitis A virus can not be transmitted to rats", said Dr. Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, explaining that monkeys are very close to humans when it comes to disease susceptibility.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, the man lived on the Choi Wan housing estate, where there were signs of rat infestation. The virus can cause deadly liver failure in humans. "We don't know if in the future there will be a serious outbreak of the rat hepatitis E virus in Hong Kong".

Concerned scientists believe he contracted the liver disease by eating food contaminated by rat droppings.

Tests then revealed he had a rat strain of the hepatitis E virus (HEV). To the transplanted organ, "stuck", the man used immunosuppressants.

A year ago researchers from Oxford University first demonstrated that hepatitis B virus is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

A worker pushes open the doors of a refuse room at the Choi Wan public housing estate in Hong Kong where there were signs of rat infestation were discovered

The virus is known to be carried by pigs, wild boar, deer, rabbits and rats but does not make them ill.

The infected person will face a variety of symptoms like fever, nausea, discoloration of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools, and an enlarged liver.

Officials said the man's health improved after the condition was identified and he received antiviral treatment.

In densely populated areas like Hong Kong, "infections that jump from animals to humans must be taken very seriously", Sridhar said.

Rodent problems in Hong Kong have escalated in recent months because of a sustained spell of hot and humid weather.

The human version of hepatitis E is usually spread through contaminated drinking water.

The disease is relatively uncommon among humans in the U.S., CDC reported, however, on a global scale, roughly 20 million people are infected, according to the World Health Organization.

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