First Human Case of Rat Strain of Hepatitis E

The first human case of a strain of hepatitis E previously found only in rats was diagnosed in a Hong Kong man who received a liver transplant in May 2017.

University of Hong Kong researchers said the 56-year-old man was cured of the liver disease in March, The New York Times reported.

The case is "a wake-up call," according to Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the infectious diseases section of the microbiology department at the university.

The researchers said the man's infection was not related to his liver transplant, but rather to factors such as rat droppings and open piles of garbage near his home, The Times reported.

Routine hepatitis E testing would not have detected the man's infection, because the rat strain is much different than the one that typically infects humans, the researchers explained.

They said the rat strain of hepatitis E was discovered in 2010 in Germany and has been found in rats across the world, including the United States.

Most human cases of hepatitis E typically cause mild symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, but such infections can be more serious for patients with weakened immune systems, The Times reported.

The human strain of hepatitis E infects 20 million people each year and about 44,000 people died from it in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

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