Rats! A New 21st Century Plague?
November 24, 2008 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Scientists Discover 21st Century Plague? Bartonella bacteria, spread by the brown rat, Europe's largest and most common rodent, are considered emerging zoonotic pathogens because they have the potential to transmit human disease worldwide, including heart disease and nervous system infections.

According to NIAID author David Morens, predicting widespread disease transmission remains dauntingly underdeveloped: "We know, however, that the mixture of determinants is becoming ever more complex, and out of this increased complexity comes increased opportunity for diseases to reach epidemic proportions quickly."

Meanwhile, wild rats, notorious hosts of the Black Death bacteria Yersinia pestis remain active carriers of a variety of human-transmissible diseases. A 1995 study of parasite and disease loads in rats found on English farms reported that the rodents carried liver worm (23%), listeria (11%), cryptosporidium parva (64%), toxoplasma gondii (35%), and Q fever (34%).
posted by terranova (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Subprime lending is the 21st Century plague.
posted by gman at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Q Fever

Yah, I had a crush on John de Lancie too.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


disease loads in rats found on English farms reported that the rodents carried liver worm (23%), listeria (11%), cryptosporidium parva (64%), toxoplasma gondii (35%), and Q fever (34%).

I was going to remark that rats didn't seem like a 21st century plague vector to me and this just proves my point. A modern human being has a lot better chance of getting toxoplasmosis from a housecat than from a rat. Similarly, why would a plague take the (literal) slow boat via rat + flea when it can travel via a human on an airplane? A human who is almost guaranteed to be landing in a crowded area of fresh victims?
posted by DU at 10:28 AM on November 24, 2008


and before people think...."aw, Rats, doesn't apply to me!" there an interesting little study from Sweden about the incidence in the cat population.
posted by Wilder at 10:41 AM on November 24, 2008


DU writes "Similarly, why would a plague take the (literal) slow boat via rat + flea when it can travel via a human on an airplane? A human who is almost guaranteed to be landing in a crowded area of fresh victims?"

A human affluent enough to afford air travel is more likely to seek medical help if they're afflicted with a parasite. A rat, not so much.
posted by mullingitover at 11:21 AM on November 24, 2008


Intermediaries also bridge temporary gaps in host populations. Drive away the rats? How many cats you got around? Deal with the cats? How's that rat population?

The most direct and the most lethal diseases kill themselves off. If you want to wipe out humanity, take the scenic route.
(and remember to hit Madagascar early)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:46 AM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Great, one more thing for me to worry about now that my daughter has started pre-school. That place is virulent.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:08 PM on November 24, 2008


Great, one more thing for me to worry about now that my daughter has started pre-school. That place is virulent.

Uh, I taught preschool and while contact with something that had been in someone's nose/mouth/butt was near inevitable, rats were nowhere to be found. Of all the things you have to worry about in terms of immunity and shared disease, anything borne by rodents is way, way down on the list. Give her lots of Vitamin C, teach her to wipe her nose, and stock up on Children's Tylenol. She'll get the occasional cold, but it'll build her immunity for plague fighting later on in life.

Hate to give you this visual, but I've worked in restaurants and preschools. One had mice and rats. The other didn't. I leave it to you to figure out which is which.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:37 PM on November 24, 2008


I really wish some enterprising Wikipedian would compile List of prior names of Bartonella sp. I recall Rochalimaea quintana and henselae, and Afipia felis, named after AFIP (the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.)

This article seems to clear up some of the confusion.

Now what about the Rickettsia: now split into Orienta tsutsugamushi, and Coxiella burnetti, so that the etiologic agent of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever stands alone?
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:55 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hate to give you this visual, but I've worked in restaurants and preschools.

Yeah, I thought my jokeyness might have been more apparent. My daughter's preschool is an absolutely top-notch institution associated with my research university, and aside from common pathogens not a place to worry about the plague. But my wife grew up in the restaurant business and some of her stories would make Gordon Ramsey cringe.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:52 AM on November 25, 2008


Given the notorious filth on most people's keyboards, someone needs to make a spoof stop-motion PSA about "Keyboards: the deadly vector", and show them rooting around in trash cans and such and scurrying from the videographer's light.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:59 AM on November 25, 2008


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