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Diseases Transmitted by Man’s Worst Friend: the Rat

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  • Author: James G. Fox1
  • Editor: David Schlossberg2
  • VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Division of Comparative Medicine, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139; 2: Philadelphia Health Department, Philadelphia, PA
  • Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
  • Received 30 March 2015 Accepted 15 April 2015 Published 06 November 2015
  • James G. Fox, Jgfox@mit.edu
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  • Abstract:

    Historically, the rat has been considered a scourge to mankind, for example, rats infected with the plague bacillus that caused the Black Death, which accounted for millions of deaths in Europe during the Middle Ages. At least three pandemics (in the 5th and 6th, 8th through 14th, and 19th through 21st centuries) of plague ravaged civilizations, and the disease undoubtedly plagued humankind prior to recorded history. Also, numerous other diseases are spread to humans by rats; thus, a quote from Hans Zinsser’s text , “Man and rat will always be pitted against each other as implacable enemies,” conveys the general revulsion that society holds for the wild rat.

  • Citation: Fox J. 2015. Diseases Transmitted by Man’s Worst Friend: the Rat. Microbiol Spectrum 3(6):IOL5-0015-2015. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015.

Key Concept Ranking

Hemorrhagic Fever With Renal Syndrome
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Sin nombre virus
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References

1. Baumstark J, Beck W, Hofmann. 2007. Outbreak of tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti) dermatitis in a home for disabled persons. Dermatology 215:66–68. [PubMed][CrossRef]
2. Beck W. 2008. Occurrence of a house-infesting tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti) on murides and human beings. Travel Med Infect Dis 6:245–249. [PubMed][CrossRef]
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2003. Multistate outbreak of monkeypox-Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 52:537–540. [PubMed]
4. Charlesworth EN, Clegern RW. 1977. Tropical rat mite dermatitis. Arch Dermatol 113:937–938. [PubMed][CrossRef]
5. Chung S, Hwang S, Kwon S, Kim DW, Jun J, Choi B. 1998. Outbreak of rate mite dermatitis in medical students. Int J Dermatol 37:591–594. [PubMed][CrossRef]
6. Craven RB, Barnes AM. 1991. Plague and tularemia. Infect Dis Clinics North Am 5:165–175. [PubMed]
7. Dove WE, Shelmire B. 1931. The tropical rat mite, Liponyssus bacoti Hirst 1914: the cause of a skin eruption of man, and a possible vector of endemic typhus fever. JAMA 96:579–584. [CrossRef]
8. Dowlati Y, Maguire HC Jr. 1970. Rat mite dermatitis: a family affair. Arch Dermatol 101:617–618. [PubMed][CrossRef]
9. Engle P, Welzel J, Maass M, Schramm U, Wolff HH. 1998. Tropical rat mite dermatitis: case report and review. Clin Infect Dis 27:1465–1469. [PubMed][CrossRef]
10. Ewers EC, Anisowicz SK. 2014. The potential danger of eating wild lettuce: a brief review of human rat lungworm infection. Hawaii J Med Public Health 73(Suppl 2):28–32. [PubMed]
11. Fox JG. 2002. The non-H pylori helicobacters: their expanding role in gastrointestinal and systemic diseases. Gut 50:273–283. [PubMed][CrossRef]
12. Fox JG, Brayton JB. 1982. Zoonoses and other human health hazards, p 403–423. In Foster HL, Small JD, Fox JG (ed), Biology of the Laboratory Mouse, vol. II. Academic Press, New York. [CrossRef]
13. Haggard CN. 1955. Rat mite dermatitis in children. Pediatrics 15:322–324. [PubMed]
14. Heiser V. 1936. An American Doctor’s Odyssey. WW Norton Publishers, New York.
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16. Himsworth CG, Parsons KL, Jardine C, Patrick DM. 2013. Rats, cities, people, and pathogens: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of literature regarding the ecology of rat-associated zoonoses in urban centers. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 13:349–359. [PubMed][CrossRef]
17. Kelaher J, Jogi R, Katta R. 2005. An outbreak of rat mite dermatitis in an animal research facility. Cutis 75:282–286. [PubMed]
18. Kosoy M, Khlyap L, Cosson JF, Morand S. 2015. Aboriginal and invasive rats of genus Rattus as hosts of infectious agents. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 15:3–12. [PubMed][CrossRef]
19. Krojgaard LH, Villumsen S, Markussen MD, Jensen JS, Leirs H, Heiberg AC. 2009. High prevalence of Leptospira spp. in sewer rats (Rattus norvegicus). Epidemiol Infect 137:1586–1592. [PubMed][CrossRef]
20. Nunez JJ, Fritz CL, Knust B, Buttke D, Enge B, Novak MG, Kramer V, Osadebe L, Messenger S, Albariño CG, Ströher U, Niemela M, Amman BR, Wong D, Manning CR, Nichol ST, Rollin PE, Xia D, Watt JP, Vugia DJ, Yosemite Hantavirus Outbreak Investigation Team. 2012. Hantavirus infections among overnight visitors to Yosemite National Park, California, USA, 2012. Emerg Infect Dis 20:386–393. [PubMed][CrossRef]
21. Purcell RH, Engle RE, Rood MP, Kabrane-Lazizi Y, Nguyen HT, Govindarajan S, St. Claire M, Emerson SU. 2011. Hepatitis E virus in rats, Los Angeles, California, USA. Emerg Infect Dis 17:2216–2222. [PubMed][CrossRef]
22. Riley WA. 1940. Rat mite dermatitis in Minnesota. Minn Med 23:423–424.
23. Rosen S, Yeruham I, Braverman Y. 2002. Dermatitis in humans associated with the mites Pyemotes tritici, Dermanyssus gallinae, Ornithonyssus bacoti and Androlaelaps casalis in Israel. Med Vet Entomol 16:442–444. [PubMed][CrossRef]
24. Swanson S, Snider C, Braden CR, Boxrud D, Wünschmann A, Rudroff JA, Lockett J, Smith KE. 2007. Multidrug-resistant Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium associated with pet rodents. N Engl J Med 356:21–28. [PubMed][CrossRef]
25. Theis J, Lavoipierre MM, LaPerriere R, Kroese H. 1981. Tropical rat mite dermatitis. Report of six cases and review of mite infestations. Arch Dermatol 117:341–343. [PubMed][CrossRef]
26. Wainschel J. 1971. Rat mite bite. JAMA 216:1964. [CrossRef]
27. Weber LF. 1940. Rat mite dermatitis. JAMA 114:1442. [CrossRef]
28. Yunker CE. 1964. Infections of laboratory animals potentially dangerous to man: ectoparasites and other arthropods, with emphasis on mites. Lab Animal Care 14:455–465. [PubMed]
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/content/journal/microbiolspec/10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
2015-11-06
2017-09-22

Abstract:

Historically, the rat has been considered a scourge to mankind, for example, rats infected with the plague bacillus that caused the Black Death, which accounted for millions of deaths in Europe during the Middle Ages. At least three pandemics (in the 5th and 6th, 8th through 14th, and 19th through 21st centuries) of plague ravaged civilizations, and the disease undoubtedly plagued humankind prior to recorded history. Also, numerous other diseases are spread to humans by rats; thus, a quote from Hans Zinsser’s text , “Man and rat will always be pitted against each other as implacable enemies,” conveys the general revulsion that society holds for the wild rat.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1
FIGURE 1

Infected finger of a child with monkeypox (Marshfield, WI, index case). The patient was bitten by a prairie dog on 27 May 2003; the primary inoculation site was the right index finger. The photo was taken 14 days after the prairie dog bite (11 days after the onset of febrile illness [hospital day 5]). (Courtesy of Kurt Reed, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, WI.) doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015.f1

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2

Eschar on posterior right calf of patient with rickettsialpox. (Reprinted from Krusell A, Comer JA, Sexton DJ. 2002. Rickettsialpox in North Carolina: a case report. 727-728). doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015.f2

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3

Tropical rat mite dermatitis. Note the three bites, referred to as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015.f3

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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Tables

Generic image for table
TABLE 1

Clinical signs of rat-bite fever

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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TABLE 2

Summary of common zoonotic pathogens associated with Norway and black rats ( and ) in urban centers

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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TABLE 3

Selected ectoparasites of rodents with zoonotic potential

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015
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TABLE 4

Reports of –induced dermatitis in humans in the United States from 1931 through 2008

Source: microbiolspec November 2015 vol. 3 no. 6 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0015-2015

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