Nov 23, 2008

Plague Rats (Again)

This was the most sinister image of a rat I could find on short order. Rats are so easily depicted in cartoons as evil, menacing creatures. But in most photos they simply look like furry rodents. Maybe not your cup of tea, but not necessarily something to induce cringing.

But maybe this tale (tail, punny) will change your mind.

Here is yet one more confirmation that rats are indeed vermin. It seems that the brown or common rat, the most common rat in Europe, may be carrying the latest and greatest dread bacteria, a newly emerged zoonotic pathogen (say those last three words three times fast) known as Bartonella s. (Bartonella? Sounds like an apple cider drink I'll be having for the holidays).

It turns out that the rats are actually carrying the bacteria carriers, which are the rat fleas. That's right: this ugly tale is three layers deep (rat -- flea -- bacteria). And rats aren't the only culprit; voles, gerbils, and other rodentia are guilty of carrying these bacteria as well. These bacteria, of which some 20 species are floating around) can wreak all sorts of destruction, affecting hearts and spleens, etc.

Thankfully, if some 21st-century plague is headed our way, cats won't be blamed this time. In fact, we may find our feline friends in high demand. They'll be haughtier and more demanding than ever.

Thanks for the article, Ida.


Yvonne Navarro said...

Hmmm. I don't like the appearance of evolving toward opposable thumbs. Don't like that at all.

Vanessa said...

Rats are awesome, they will rule the world! Muwhahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

The black plague was also carried by fleas that were carried by rats.

Me said...

I have four cats, I should be safe! YESSSSS

Tracy said...

The reason why the black plague was so bad was because the cats which would have killed the rats were being killed for witchcraft associations.

And like 'Me' (posted above) I have 3 cats, one of whom is a fanatic rat/mouse hunter so I'll be safe to :)

booge said...

I was just thinking about Hanta the other day. People think of war and rising seas, I think it's the Horse of Pestilence that'll take our asses out.

Happy Holidays!

Scythemantis said...

It's very debatable that the black death was bubonic plague at all, and you won't get it from modern rats.

Rats aren't inherently any dirtier than any other mammal (they are not, contrary to popular myth, carrion eaters) and a disease certainly doesn't make something a "vermin"...if that were the case, cats and dogs are the biggest vermin of all for transmitting a wide variety of nasty things to us humans, from parasitic worms to rabies (which rats, incidentally, CANNOT transmit)

I really thought Ugly Overload knew better than that :p