Rats infected with COVID-19 found in New York

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A new study shows wild New York City rats that live in sewers and subways are not immune to COVID-19. They found the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in particular the Alpha, Delta and Omicron strains. These study results are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Microbiology.

“Our results highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in urban rat populations and assessing the potential risk of secondary transmission of zoonoses from these rat populations back to humans.”

The team set up two traps near locations around sewer systems and captured 79 rats from three locations in and around city parks in Brooklyn in the fall of 2021.

13 rats (i.e. 16%) tested positive for COVID-19.

Scientists used genomic analysis to determine a possible link to viruses that circulated among humans in the early stages of the pandemic. This confirmed their hypothesis that rodents can provoke outbreaks in large cities.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to humans from animals is not high. But the results of this study underline the need to keep the situation under control.

“Overall, our work in this space shows that animals can play a role in pandemics that affect humans, and it is important that we continue to improve our understanding so that we can protect the health of people and animals,” said researcher Dr. Wang.

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