New York City: Amid a rise in cases of the seasonal influenza subtype H3N2, recently a new study has found that New York City rats can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
As per researchers, New York City has about 8 million rats, and they have ample opportunities to interact with people.
The findings which were published on March 9 in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, noted that New York rats are susceptible to three Covid variants. Rats collected in the study tested positive for alpha, delta and omicron variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. For the study, the group trapped rats in and around locations surrounding wastewater systems, mostly in Brooklyn.
Biologists found that 13 of 79 rats (16.5%), tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
”To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show SARS-CoV-2 variants can cause infections in the wild rat populations in a major US urban area,” said Dr Henry Wan, the principal investigator of the study.
However, it’s not entirely clear how the rats contracted SARS-CoV-2 or whether they pose a particular danger to human health.
“Our findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in rat populations to determine if the virus is circulating in the animals and evolving into new strains that could pose a risk to humans,” said Dr Wan.
”Overall, our work in this space shows that animals can play a role in pandemics that impact humans, and it’s important that we continue to increase our understanding so we can protect both human and animal health,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that animal-to-human transmission of Covid is rare.