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Alternative NamesStreptobacillary fever; Streptobacillosis; Haverhill fever; Epidemic arthritic erythema; Spirillary fever; Sodoku
Definition Return to top
Rat-bite fever is a rare disease spread by infected rodents.
Causes Return to top
Rat-bite fever can be caused by the bacteria, Actinobacillus muris (formerly called Streptobacillus moniliformis) and Spirillum minus. Most cases of rat-bite fever occur in Japan, where it is called sodoku.
The disease has also been seen in:
Most people get rat-bite fever through contact with urine or secretions from the mouth, eye, or nose of an infected animal. This most commonly occurs though a bite, yet some cases may occur simply through contact with these secretions.
The source of the infection is usually a rat. Other animals that may cause infection include squirrels, weasels, and gerbils.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
This condition is diagnosed by detecting the bacteria in skin, blood, joint fluid, or lymph nodes. Blood antibody tests may also be used.
Treatment Return to top
Rat-bite fever is usually treated with antibiotic therapy. Your health care provider may prescribe penicillin or tetracyclines for 7-14 days.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outlook is excellent with early treatment.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
Avoiding contact with rats or rat-contaminated dwellings may help prevent rat-bite fever. Taking antibiotics by mouth after a rat bite may also help prevent this illness.
References Return to top
Washburn RG. Streptobacillus moniliformis (rat-bite fever). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005: chap 228.Update Date: 9/28/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.