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Care and Use of Animals

Zoonotic Diseases: Mice, Rats, Hamsters, and Other Rodents

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus: Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infects wild mice world-wide and laboratory animal species including mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. Humans can be infected by inhalation and by contact with tissues or fluids from infected animals. Symptoms include fever, myalgia, headache and malaise. More severe symptoms can occur such as lymphadeopathy, meningoencephalitis and neurologic signs.

Prevention: Serologic surveillance of animal colonies at risk and screening of all tumors and cell lines intended for animal passage will help to prevent LCM. Personnel should wear gloves when handling animals and practice appropriate personnel hygiene which includes hand washing.

Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is widely distributed in domestic and wild animals. The possibility of transmission to humans from most animal species maintained in the laboratory should be considered but livestock and dogs would be the most common reservoirs. Transmission of the organism to humans can occur through skin abrasions and mucous membranes by contact with urine or tissues of animals infected with Leptospirosis. Inhalation or ingestion of organisms can also transmit the diseases. Disease can vary from asymptomatic infection to severe disease ranging from flu-like symptoms to liver and kidney failure, encephalitis, and pulmonary involvement.

Prevention: Control of this infection in laboratory animal populations along with use of protective clothing and gloves by persons working with and caring for infected animals will help prevent disease.

Rat-Bite Fever: Rat-bite fever is caused by Streptobacillus monilformis or Spirillum mino., These organisms are in the respiratory tracts and mouths of rodents, especially rats. Most human infections are the result of a bite wound. Symptoms include chills, fever, malaise, headache and muscle pain. A rash can develop along with painful joints, abscesses, endocarditis, pneumonia, hepatitis pyelonephritis, and enteritis.

Prevention: Animals need to be handled properly to prevent bites.

Campylobacter: Campylobacter species can be found in pet and laboratory animal species. Transmission to humans is by the fecal-oral route and can produce an acute enteritis. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Prevention: Use of personal protective clothing, good personal hygiene, and sanitation measures will help to prevent the transmission of the disease.

Salmonellosis: Along with a variety of other species, Salmonella, and other enteric bacteria are capable of causing disease in humans. Salmonellae are transmitted by the fecal-oral route. Infection produces an acute enterocolitis and fever with possible secondary complications such as septicemia.

Prevention: Use of protective clothing, personal hygiene which include hand washing after contact with animals or their waste, and sanitation measures prevent the transmission of the disease.

Hantavirus Infection: Hantaviruses occur in rodent populations world-wide. Rats and mice have been implicated in outbreaks and infection of laboratory personnel has resulted from infected rats. The virus is shed in the respiratory secretions, saliva, urine, and feces of infected animals and is transmitted to humans by aerosol. Clinical signs in humans include fever, myalgia, headache, and cough followed by rapid respiratory failure.

Prevention: Hantavirus infections should be prevented through the detection of infection in incoming rodents and rodent tissues prior to their introduction into existing colonies. Animal biosafety level 4 guidelines are recommended for animal studies involving hantavirus infections in hosts such as Peromyscus maniculatus and wild caught rodents brought into the facility that are susceptible to hantaviruses.

Rodentolepsis: The tapeworm Rodentolepsis nana infects rats, mice and hamsters. Humans can be infected by ingestion of tapeworm eggs resulting in abdominal distress, enteritis, anorexia and headache.

Prevention: Preventing contact with the tapeworm ova present in feces and on fomites will help to control this zoonotic disease. Hand washing after contact with animals or their waste and wearing disposable gloves is appropriate. As cockroaches, beetles and fleas can act as intermediate hosts in the life cycle of this tapeworm in rodents, effective pest control should be in place.


Risk assessment- UC Davis

Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals, National Research Council; National Academy Press, 1997.

Center for Disease Control- Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases

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