World's first human case of rat hepatitis discovered

World's first human case of rat hepatitis discovered

World's first human case of rat hepatitis discovered

Hong Kong discovered for the first time that rat hepatitis E virus (HEV) could infect humans, according to Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Friday.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong said that a 56-year-old man has been detected with the disease that was previously not known to be passed from rats to humans.

Before this case, there had been no previous evidence that rat hepatitis E, one of the variants of the virus that affects mammals, could be transmitted to humans.

The case has "major public health significance" because it proves rats can pass the virus to people, researchers warn.

The human strain of hepatitis E is typically spread through contaminated water or food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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It was only when the virus was genetically sequenced that doctors found similarities with the rodent strain.

"We postulate that contamination of food by infected rat droppings in the food supply is possible", the researchers said.

It is usually spread through contaminated drinking water.

The virus causes hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, and can not be cured but usually heals on its own.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting and jaundice, and in rare cases liver failure. Doctors later found that he had a strain of hepatitis that was "highly divergent" from other strains found in humans, the BBC reports.

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The man is now recovering after being treated in hospital, the Morning Post added.

Many people clearly have hepatitis, based on their symptoms, but they test negative on all the human strains known to exist, Adalja said.

Until now, it has been widely accepted that hepatitis E can not be transferred from rats to humans.

Rodent problem in Hong Kong has intensified this summer, when unusually high temperatures and humidity forced the rats to rise to the surface.

Cases of HEV typically present in one of two ways, either as large outbreaks and sporadic cases in areas where HEV is endemic (genotype 1) in Asia and Africa, (genotype 2) in Mexico and West Africa and (genotype 4) in Taiwan and China or as isolated cases in developed countries (genotype 3), reports the WHO.

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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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