Rat-bite fever can be caused by the two different bacteria, Streptobacillus moniliformis or Spirillum minus, both of which are found in the mouths of rodents.
The disease has been seen in:
North and South America
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 depend on the bacteria that caused the infection.
Symptoms due to Streptobacillus moniliformis may include:
You or your child has had recent contact with a rat or other rodent
The person who was bitten has symptoms of rat-bite fever
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.
Washburn RG. Rat-bite fever: Streptobacillus moniliformis and Spirillum minus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 231.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.