UK Daily Mail 
Monday, Nov 24, 2008
A new plague which jumps from rats to humans has been discovered by scientists.
Fears are growing that increasing numbers of brown rats – the most common kind in Europe – are carrying a strain of bacteria that can cause serious illness in humans from heart disease to infection of the spleen and nervous system.
The new strain of bacteria called Bartonella rochalimae is spread between rats by fleas, Taiwanese researchers have said.
It was first discovered in an American woman with an enlarged spleen who had recently travelled to Peru.
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‘This event raised concern that it could be a newly emerged zoonotic pathogen,’ said Professor Chao-Chin Chang from the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan.
‘Therefore, we decided to investigate further to understand if rodents living close to human environment could carry this bacteria.’
Scientists have found that rodents carry several pathogenic species of Bartonella, such as B. elizabethae, which can cause inflammation of the heart and B. grahamii, which causes inflammation of the retina and optic nerve of the eye.