SEP 29, 2018 09:10 AM PDT

In a First, Rat Variation of Hepatitis E Found in a Person

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

For this first time, researchers have detected a rat variation of the hepatitis E virus in a person. It was found in a 56-year-old Hong Kong man who had recently received a liver transplant.

It’s tough to say if there is a consensus about whether infections that jump to a new species, called zoonotic, are more dangerous. But we do know that many serious diseases have jumped species, like Lyme disease, avian flu, or rabies. In a densely populated area like Hong Kong, they warrant a closer look, Dr. Siddharth Sridhar, a clinical assistant professor in the Hong Kong University Department of Microbiology told the New York Times.

He added that “infections that jump from animals to humans must be taken very seriously. For these kinds of rare infections, unusual infections, even one case is enough to make public health authorities and researchers very alert about the implications of the disease. One is all it takes.” 

While the patient had gotten a transplant, the researchers ruled that and blood donors out as potential sources of the infection. There were rat droppings found near the patient's home, and by testing samples collected from his neighborhood in the past few years, the researchers were able to find that at least one rat in the area was infected with the hepatitis E virus.

Hong Kong / Credit: Carmen Leitch

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the hepatitis E virus causes an estimated 3.3 cases of symptomatic hepatitis E every year. It is a liver disease that killed 44,000 people in 2015. It's a problem worldwide, but primarily affects people that lack access to clean water; it happens when water is contaminated with fecal matter, and has not occurred because of a rat-to-human transmission before this case.

It causes nausea, vomiting, reduced appetite, and a mild fever. Some people experience itching or joint pain. It can also cause jaundice and enlarges the liver slightly.

Because there is no specific treatment for the viral infection, prevention is the best way to fight the illness. That means getting people easier access to water and hygienic facilities.

 

Sources: New York Times, WHO

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 20, 2018
How A Virus Impacts a Bacterium that Infects People
You may have never heard of melioidosis, also known as Whitmore's disease, but it is a scary infection in many parts of the world....
NOV 02, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 02, 2018
As the Climate Warms, Lyme Disease Cases Will Increase
Ticks are known to carry infectious illnesses; Lyme disease is North America's most common tick-borne disease....
NOV 16, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 16, 2018
Testing the Impact of a Low-gluten Diet on Healthy People
Gluten-free diets have exploded in popularity in recent years, even for people who don't have documented food allergies....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
The Fight Bite
  Human bite wounds are a common source of polymicrobial infections accounting for many emergency room visits. One bacteria, Eikenella corrodens, ...
NOV 26, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 26, 2018
Behavior Predicting Neural Code Identified
Perceptual choice behavior, taking action based on the information received from the senses is often described by mathematical models...
NOV 29, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 29, 2018
Bacteria may Explain the Symbiotic Relationship of Anemones & Clownfish
Sea anemones normally kill and eat fish. But clownfish can nestle into anemones without getting stung....
Loading Comments...