Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

From Rats To Humans: Around Thirty Europeans Infected With Cowpox Virus By Their Pet Rats

Date:
May 8, 2009
Source:
CNRS
Summary:
Around thirty Europeans, including twenty French citizens, have recently contracted a viral infection linked to their pet rat.

Virologists have identified the unsuspected origin of cutaneous lesions observed in around thirty Europeans, including twenty French citizens. They had contracted a viral infection linked to their pet rat.
Credit: iStockphoto/Tamara Bauer

Two reseach teams in Marseille, France, led by Didier Raoult, director of the Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Research Unit (CNRS / IRD / Université de la Méditerranée) and by Rémi Charrel, a virologist working at the Emerging Viruses Unit (IRD / Université de la Méditerranée) and at La Timone University Hospital, have identified the unsuspected origin of cutaneous lesions observed in around thirty Europeans, including twenty French citizens. They had contracted a viral infection linked to their pet rat.

This is the first time that transmission of this type of virus, cowpox, from pet rats to humans has been described. This new disease underlines the risks of zoonoses (animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans) linked to the adoption of new types of pet.

In early 2009, four cases of cutaneous infection were reported in northern France. The patients had blackish lesions on their skin, which led to their initially being diagnosed as rickettsioses, which are diseases caused by intracellular pathogenic bacteria called rickettsia. In order to confirm this hypothesis, samples were sent for testing to the national center of reference for rickettsioses, the Joint Research Unit for Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases in Marseille, directed by Didier Raoult. The researchers' conclusion was unequivocal: this was not a case of rickettsiosis.

Their investigation did not stop there. Raoult and his team contacted their virologist colleagues at the Emerging Viruses Unit at La Timone hospital. The virologists suspected that this was a case of infection by the cowpox virus, which, astonishingly, was rapidly confirmed. The viruses were observed by means of electron microscopy, and molecular analysis revealed that all the cases were caused by the same strain of cowpox virus.

The virus is endemic in western Europe, including France, in wild rodents, which make up its main reservoir. It belongs to the same family (Poxviridae) as the now extinct smallpox virus, and is potentially pathogenic in humans. It becomes apparent as a viral infection after a period of incubation of about one week. The cutaneous lesion heals spontaneously after six weeks. It is therefore not serious for humans, except for immunodeficient individuals such as the elderly or people who have received transplants, in whom the infection can spread.

Although cowpox infection is rare in humans, it is not unheard of. Sporadic cases have regularly been reported in Europe since 2002. However, until now, only a few cases of infection had been described, all of which were transmitted in one of two ways: either as a result of handling infected wild rodents, or by being scratched by a cat which had itself become infected by a wild rodent.  Since none of the patients with cutaneous lesions had a cat, this type of transmission was ruled out. However, all of them had recently adopted a rat as a pet. This is thus the first time that transmission of cowpox virus from pet rats to humans has been observed. 

Changing human practices, such as the adoption of new types of pet, can therefore create conditions that are favorable to the emergence of new animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. This work also underlines the importance of setting up a diagnostic capability at national level for the rapid identification of emerging pathogens.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ninove et al. Cowpox Virus Transmission from Pet Rats to Humans, France. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2009; 15 (5): 781 DOI: 10.3201/eid1505.090235

Cite This Page:

CNRS. "From Rats To Humans: Around Thirty Europeans Infected With Cowpox Virus By Their Pet Rats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507192933.htm>.
CNRS. (2009, May 8). From Rats To Humans: Around Thirty Europeans Infected With Cowpox Virus By Their Pet Rats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507192933.htm
CNRS. "From Rats To Humans: Around Thirty Europeans Infected With Cowpox Virus By Their Pet Rats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507192933.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) — West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) — A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) — Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins