Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Article: Rats and Their Alarming Bugs
Recently, a team of pathogen hunters at Columbia University... conducted a survey of the viruses and bacteria in Manhattan’s rats, the first attempt to use DNA to catalog pathogens in any animal species in New York City.
The team has gone all over the world doing this, but had never done it in their own backyard.
First, the scientists looked for disease agents previously found in rats. They discovered bacteria that caused food poisoning, such as Salmonella and a strain of E. coli known to cause terrible diarrhea. They also found pathogens that caused fevers, such as Seoul hantavirus and Leptospira. 
They did not, however, find some of the nastiest germs infecting rats in other parts of the world, such as Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague.
However, rats do carry the bubonic plague bacteria. Just because these rats in this section of NY did not have them at this time does not mean that they will not in the future.

I am not surprised that they found multiple pathogens. Rats are dirty and are known disease carriers.
Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health, said the study would not lead to any immediate changes in how the city deals with rats, but the data would help health officials better understand how diseases spread.
The rats have had these pathogens for years, even decades. There have not been any large breakouts of these diseases (other than the occasional outbreak of food poisoning). This is something chronic that we just realized existed, and probably not, in itself, a cause of worry.

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