Rat hepatitis: how is it transmitted to humans, why is it dangerous and whether to expect a new epidemic Virologist Volchkov: Mouse hepatitis virus may be present in rodents in Russia 05/14/2024, 12:57

Rat hepatitis. Preparing to attack

For the first time in the world, Spanish scientists have identified dozens of cases of rat hepatitis E infection in humans. The patients were found in different parts of Spain, including Andalusia, Galicia, Navarre and Catalonia. This shows that the virus is present in a large part of the country. All of these cases were identified by analysis of samples from more than 250 patients from 10 hospitals.

The virus that causes this disease is called Rocahepevirus ratti (RHEV). It was first identified in Germany in 2010, but it wasn’t thought people could catch it. Later scientists EstablishedIt turned out that almost 18% of gray rats were infected with the hepatitis E virus, which is mainly found in the liver and spleen of the animals. They also noted that these rodents could be possible carriers of hepatitis: They can infect pigs on farms, which can transmit the virus to humans if they eat poorly processed meat.

In 2018, the first case of rat hepatitis E infection in humans was detected; Later, a liver transplant patient was infected with this virus.

He had persistent liver problems, but standard tests for human hepatitis viruses returned negative results, even though the disease pattern was very similar to hepatitis. Tests for the rat type of Hepatitis E gave positive results. At the same time, the man fully recovered after a course of antiviral drugs that treat chronic human hepatitis E. It is still unknown why he contracted mouse hepatitis.

Other to workResearch published in 2023 found that rat hepatitis EV (RHEV), which can be transmitted to humans by consuming contaminated food or water, was most prevalent in Asia. Approximately 60% of RHEV infections in animals occur in this region, and 16 cases of human infection have also been reported here. According to researchers, the number of infected people is increasing.

Should we expect an epidemic?

Exactly how the virus was transmitted from rodents to humans has not yet been determined. One hypothesis is that humans may become infected after contact with items contaminated with the feces or urine of carrier mice (e.g., through grain products).

“It turned out that the epidemic in Spain was most likely caused by grain that was infected with the virus and arrived in the country. This may explain the widespread spread of the virus across the country. Because rodents often inhabit grain transfer points, grain often contains high amounts of mouse droppings, which may have gotten there during transportation and storage. The question remains whether this is a local story or whether there is an outbreak elsewhere.

According to him, the transfer of the hepatitis E pathogen from mice to humans is a concerted attempt of the virus to overcome the interspecies barrier.

“It doesn’t mean that the outbreak in Spain hasn’t infected people in other regions. If we don’t find it in Russia, that doesn’t mean our rodents aren’t infected.”

It’s just that experts may not yet be able to identify these cases. There is a high probability that this virus will spread around the world. It has not yet learned how to transmit from person to person, but if the virus managed to “jump” from a mouse to a person, then jumping to another level is not so difficult anymore. But this requires certain conditions, namely a high concentration of the virus in a certain place where both mice and people are present. Since the virus is transmitted via fecal-oral route, not airborne droplets, extremely unsanitary conditions will be sufficient,” Volchkov said.

The expert is also confident that you should not expect a pandemic: “We should not expect coronavirus history to repeat itself; There will most likely be no rat hepatitis E epidemic. But this outbreak in Spain is indicative. “With each cycle of transmission of the virus from rodent to human and back, it will become increasingly easier for the pathogen to cross the interspecies barrier, increasing the likelihood of transmission of the virus between humans.”

Is it fatal?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver usually caused by a virus, but there are also hepatitis caused by drugs, alcohol and autoimmune diseases. Ekaterina Fedosina, gastroenterologist at the European Medical Center (EMC), said there are five hepatitis viruses that can each cause liver damage: A, B, C, D and E.

“Human hepatitis E virus is often spread through contaminated drinking water. Hepatitis E is common in Africa and Southeast Asia. Usually the disease is mild, causing only mild jaundice and loss of appetite; The disease rarely becomes chronic and, as a rule, goes away on its own. However, for pregnant women, hepatitis E is really dangerous: the mortality rate from it in the third trimester reaches 30%,” Fedosina noted.

Gastroenterologist, hepatologist, St. According to Maria Prashnova, associate professor at St. Petersburg State University and chief physician of the EXPERT clinic, hepatitis E virus belongs to the Hepeviridae family, while the strains that can infect humans belong to the Orthohepevirus genus. and contains 4 main genotypes. The first and second are dangerous only to humans and have a fecal-oral route of transmission; The third and fourth mainly affect animals but can also be transmitted to humans.

“Science in general has long known that a variety of animals can contract the hepatitis E virus, including pigs, deer, camels, shellfish and, of course, rats. The same strains can also infect humans, but it is very rare. Currently, these cases are being actively recorded and studied, but it is too early to draw any conclusions about the formation of a new source of full-fledged hepatitis E virus. In any case, methods of prevention and treatment will most likely not differ much from classical methods, at least everything points to this so far,” said Prashnova.

According to him, it is enough to follow various protection methods to avoid contracting the virus.

“Prevention strategies include several simple methods to eliminate infection via the fecal-oral route. It is recommended to boil water or drink bottled water from proven sources and not consume thermally unprocessed meat products such as dry-cured sausages. Also avoid putting water in your mouth when showering or bathing in third world countries , you should even brush your teeth using bottled water.”

But even in case of infection, treatment is not always necessary, especially for people whose immune system is sufficiently protected. If a person is immunocompromised, he or she may develop acute or chronic hepatitis E. It may require treatment.

“When it comes to treating hepatitis E, there is no specific treatment that can affect the course of acute hepatitis. The disease usually resolves spontaneously without the need for hospitalization.

In the absence of acute liver failure, patients do not need to be hospitalized. In case of a fulminant type of disease (fulminant hepatitis) or in pregnant women with hepatitis E and severe symptoms, the question of hospitalization arises. In addition, treatment with the antiviral drug ribavirin is indicated for chronic hepatitis E patients with an immunocompromised (immunocompromised) background,” said Fedosina.

Virologist Volchkov confirms that the virus is not fatal, but in third world countries where there are problems with hygiene standards and high levels of HIV infection, the lethality of the rat hepatitis E virus can be really high.

“In addition, this is exactly the region that can be called a viral testing area, where different pathogens can undergo the adaptation process to humans. Most likely, the first case of human-to-human transmission of this virus will be recorded there,” Volchkov concluded.

What are you thinking?

The world’s first outbreak of rat hepatitis E virus was recorded in Spain. Among the 40 cases there were people from different parts of the country (Andalusia, Galicia, Navarra and Catalonia). How the mouse virus can infect a person, how dangerous it is and whether we should expect a new epidemic – in the material of socialbites.ca.

Source: Gazeta


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