Published: Mon, October 01, 2018
Medical | By

First human case of rat hepatitis found in Hong Kong

First human case of rat hepatitis found in Hong Kong

The rat hepatitis E virus, discovered in Germany in 2010, has been found in rodents throughout the world, including the USA, per the New York Times.

The man was diagnosed after doctors found his liver was functioning abnormally following a transplant, which was prompted by a chronic infection of Hepatitis B.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong identified the infection in September 2017 in a 56-year-old man who had received a liver transplant in May.

Just because this is the first case of a rat hepatitis E infection documented in a human, Adalja said, "it doesn't mean it's the first time its ever occurred in history".

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted there was a possibility that hepatitis E could be spread from animals to humans but via foodborne infection from the consumption of uncooked or undercooked meat from infected animals.

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

Traditionally, the HEV is transmitted by the fecal-oral route, principally via contaminated water.


Previous year researchers from Oxford University first demonstrated that hepatitis B virus is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. To the transplanted organ, "stuck", the man used immunosuppressants. "Doctors later found that he had a strain of hepatitis that was "highly divergent" from other strains found in humans".

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

The man is said to be recovering.

Yet tests for the human form of hepatitis E wound up negative. The CDC describes fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, jaundice, and joint pain among the many symptoms. The human form of hepatitis E is typically transmitted through contaminated water, and is estimated to infect 20 million people worldwide, resulting in 3.3 million people showing symptoms each year, according to the World Health Organization.

It is common for diseases to spread from animals to humans - more than 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases begin in animals, said the BBC.

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

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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