Heart disease bacteria 'carried by rats'
Bacteria that can cause serious heart disease is being spread by rat fleas
Also In The News
England have lost the one-day series to India after a 19-run defeat under the Duckworth-Lewis method in Bangalore.
Monday, 24, Nov 2008 11:30
A dangerous bacteria which can cause serious heart disease is being spread by rat fleas, scientists have found.
A report published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology today suggest that brown rats, the most common in Europe, may be carrying the bacteria and the infections could become a bigger problem in humans.
Scientist claim a new species of bacteria, known as Bartonella rochalimae, was recently discovered in a patient with an enlarged spleen who had travelled to South America.
"This event raised concern that it could be a newly emerged zoonotic pathogen. Therefore, we decided to investigate further to understand if rodents living close to human environment could carry this bacteria," said professor Chao-Chin Chang, from the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan.
Scientists found that rodents can carry several pathogenic species of Bartonella, and although the main route of transmission is unknown, the authors claim the infections are most likely to be spread by fleas.
Ctenophthalmus nobilis, a flea that lives on bank voles, was shown to transmit different species of Bartonella bacteria. While pathogens have also been found in fleas that live on gerbils, cotton rats and brown rats, the authors claim.
"We analysed bacteria found in Rattus norvegicus in Taiwan. The brown rat is also the most common rat in Europe. By analysing the DNA of the bacteria, we discovered a strain that is most closely related to B. rochalimae, which has been isolated recently from a human infection in the United States," said Professor Chang.
He added: "Because of the small sample size used in this study, we cannot say for sure that the common brown rat is spreading B. rochalimae.
"However, several different Bartonella bacteria are surely transmitted by rodents. These results raise concerns about the existence of other reservoirs and vectors for this emerging infection. This certainly warrants further investigation."