A case report published in the February 20 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, reveals that a 26-year-old woman from Adelaide who enjoyed cuddling and kissing her pet rats contracted Streptobacillus moniliformis infection (rat bite fever). The disease is potentially fatal and could become more prevalent as rodent ownership increases.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.
According to the report by Dr Lito Papanicolas, a registrar at SA Pathology, and coauthors, although S. moniliformis infection is normally contracted via a rat bite, it can also be contracted from handling and exposure to the excreta or saliva of pet rodents like guinea pigs and rats. In this case, the women contracted the disease by handling and exposure.
After presenting to the emergency department with a severe headache, the woman developed respiratory distress, where she was treated in the intensive care unit. After 17 days of hospitalization, the women made a full recovery.
The researchers note that owners of rodents, lab workers, as well as pet shop employees have all contracted the disease in recent years.
"As rodents become more popular as household pets, more cases of S. moniliformis infection due to affectionate contact are likely to occur."
According to the researchers this case underlines the importance of history-taking and the need to conduct blood cultures in individuals presenting with fever.
Written by Grace Rattue