Rat-bite fever can be caused by 2 different bacteria, Streptobacillus moniliformis or Spirillum minus. Both of these are found in the mouths of rodents.
The disease is most often seen in:
Most people get rat-bite fever through contact with urine or fluids from the mouth, eye, or nose of an infected animal. This most commonly occurs through a bite, yet some cases may occur simply through contact with these fluids.
A rat is usually the source of the infection. Other animals that may cause this infection include:
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. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 233.
Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.