Researchers in Hong Kong have announced the first known human case of rat hepatitis E.
CBS News notes medical experts diagnosed the infection in a 56-year-old man “after testing showed abnormal liver function following a liver transplant. Doctors later found that he had a strain of hepatitis that was ‘highly divergent’ from other strains found in humans.”
According to the BBC, this virus strain had not been previously known to transmit to humans and University of Hong Kong researchers are not certain how the man contracted the infection.
However, they suspect that “contamination of food by infected rat droppings in the food supply is possible.”
After undergoing treatment, the patient was cured of the disease but the researchers are warning about the seriousness of such cases.
“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,” Dr. Siddharth Sridhar, a clinical assistant professor in the university’s department of microbiology, told the New York Times.