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The leprechaun. A little ginger humanoid dressed in green, with buckled shoes and a matching hat, and a massive pot of (tax-free) gold. We all know them.

Or not. For the world I'm building, I've decided to go down a different path. Instead, somebody who doesn't speak Irish thinks it's short for "leprosy-afflicted corn rats" after seeing some rats with something like leprosy and some green fur, and the name sticks so well that their scientific name becomes Rattus leprechaunae. There's just one problem: as far as I know, leprosy doesn't affect rats.

So, what kind of disease could I give them instead? And would it be possible for this to be the result of their green clothes a green algae infecting their fur?

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    $\begingroup$ Ya ha. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donohue_syndrome $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2016 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Nahshonpaz wow...you learn something new every day! $\endgroup$
    – user7076
    Feb 4, 2016 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Please be advised that the word 'leprechaun' is considered pejorative and not supernaturally correct. "Wee Folk" and "Little People" are both considered acceptable forms. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2016 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ You could invent an entire ecosystem for the fur/algae like sloths have $\endgroup$
    – user3106
    Feb 22, 2016 at 14:38

4 Answers 4

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As has been suggested, make a green kind of fungus grow on their backs. While I don't think having clover leaves is realistic, this can be a parasitic bacteria, which causes sores on the rat's back. It then infects them, and does all kinds of damage to the rat. So you essentially have rotting, living rats. It's like leprousy, but with fungus.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Rotting, living rats". Perfect. *Insert maniacal laughter here* $\endgroup$
    – user7076
    Feb 6, 2016 at 12:43
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What about instead of an infection, a symbiotic algae like life form or milli/micro/nano-scopic colonies which feast on the bacteria on the rat and grants its host athletic/magical/etc traits?

Heck, you could even make it a (4 leaf)clover-like plant/fungus/algae to add to the old Irish vibe.

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  • $\begingroup$ That would work quite well for the fur colour. However, I do want them to be covered in sores. $\endgroup$
    – user7076
    Feb 4, 2016 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilipRowlands Well, it could be a parasitic algae instead, actually feeding off of the host, but not killing it fast. Leaching off nutrients, but giving back other chemical or biological agents as part of it's growth cycle. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Feb 4, 2016 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilipRowlands Yeah, like in my answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2016 at 15:02
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FYI: Nine-banded armadillos, like humans, are susceptible to leprosy. They've also been able to grow it in mouse foot pads since it won't culture in any normal medium.

The bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, is related to the one that causes tuberculosis.

So you could give the rats leprosy by saying it's a mutation that has jumped species after an infected mouse escaped.

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Another possibility would be an animal attack. For example a wasp that injects eggs into the skin. The eggs hatch into maggots that devour the rats from the inside out. The maggots also secrete a green ooze that seeps into the skin of the rat and dyes the fur and skin green.

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