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.
According to Professor Yuen Kwok-yung and his research team, the patient - a 56-year-old Hong Kong male who had undergone a liver transplant last year - presented with dysfunction of the liver graft some time after the surgery. The patient recovered after given ribavirin, an oral medication.
Further tests showed that the patient was infected by Rat HEV, a species of hepatitis virus known only to be carried by animals such as rats and was distantly related to human hepatitis E virus variants.
The patient lived at Choi Wan Estate and his flat was close to a refuse room infested with rats, and was probably infected via the environment or through food contaminated by rats which carried the virus, said the researchers.
Yuen pointed out that this study proved for the first time in the world that rat HEV could infect humans and highlighted the importance for rodent control measures as human infection by rat HEV had never been documented previously.