Tags: rats | diseases | viruses | New York City | study

Study Confirms Rats Are As Disease-Ridden As Thought

Image: Study Confirms Rats Are As Disease-Ridden As Thought
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By    |   Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 04:16 PM

You assume that New York City's classic native animal, the all-too-common rat, is a pretty dirty animal, but until Columbia University researchers did the first viral study on the "rattus norvegicus," as they're known in scientific circles, no one appreciated just how dirty they really are.

Researchers, who trapped and examined 133 typical NYC "city kitties" over a year, not only discovered a host of diseases which can affect humans, but they also found viruses like hantavirus, never before seen in New York, and even viruses never before found in science, The New York Times reports.

Publishing the results of their study in the journal mBio, titled "Detection of Zoonotic Pathogens and the Characterization of Novel Viruses Carried by Commensal Rattus norvegicus in New York City," the researchers stated, "We found that these rats are infected with bacterial pathogens known to cause acute or mild gastroenteritis in people, including atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, Clostridium difficile, and Salmonella enterica, as well as infectious agents that have been associated with undifferentiated febrile illnesses, including Bartonella spp., Streptobacillus moniliformis, Leptospira interrogans, and Seoul hantavirus.

"We also identified a wide range of known and novel viruses from groups that contain important human pathogens, including sapoviruses, cardioviruses, kobuviruses, parechoviruses, rotaviruses, and hepaciviruses. The two novel hepaciviruses discovered in this study replicate in the liver of Norway rats and may have utility in establishing a small animal model of human hepatitis C virus infection."

When it comes to hunting for disease sources in animals, "Everybody’s looking all over the world, in all sorts of exotic places, including us," Ian Lipkin, a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia, told the Times, "but nobody’s looking right under our noses."

"This is a recipe for a public health nightmare," Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, told the Times, calling the study results "shocking and surprising."

To date, the scientists have identified 18 new species of viruses in New York rats, in the first such study ever done.

David Patrick, director of the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, told the Times that the newly discovered viruses "may or may not have any links to human illness, but it is good to be able to describe them in detail."

New York is not the most rat-infested city in the U.S. That honor goes to Chicago, according to a new survey by Orkin, followed by Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C./Hagerstown, with New York taking up fourth place on the list.

The deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York Department of Health, Jay Varma, told the Times the study was unlikely to kick off any new massive efforts to rid New York of rats — at least, not yet.

However, Lipkin said the study should sound an alarm for the city to do a better job of rat control, "But that's [NYC Mayor] Bill de Blasio's problem; I'm just doing the science," he told the Times.

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You assume that New York City's classic native animal, the all-too-common rat, is a pretty dirty animal, but until Columbia University researchers did the first viral study on rats no one appreciated just how dirty they are.
rats, diseases, viruses, New York City, study
493
2014-16-16
Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 04:16 PM
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