TO A new study has found that even New York City rats are not immune to COVID-19.
he studypublished in change, the Journal of the American Academy of Microbiology, found that feral rats in the city sewer system and in other parts of the city have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrated that rats are susceptible to infection with the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants of the virus.
“Our findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in urban rat populations and to assess the potential risk of secondary zoonotic transmission from these rat populations to humans,” the authors wrote in the study.
The researchers wanted to know if the virus had been transmitted from humans to rats, as well as to which variants the rats were susceptible. The team set up two traps near sites surrounding sewage systems and captured 79 rats from three sites in and around Brooklyn city parks in the fall of 2021, when Delta dominated.
read more: Why animals are less vulnerable than humans to Omicron
Thirteen of the rats (about 16%) tested positive for COVID-19, and the researchers used genomic analysis to determine a possible link to viruses circulating among humans during the early stages of the pandemic. “To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show that SARS-CoV-2 variants can cause infections in wild rat populations in a major urban area in the US,” said Henry Wan, director of the Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Missouri and the study’s principal investigator, in a Press release.
By giving wild rats samples of different variants through their noses, the researchers also found that Alpha, Delta and Omicron were able to infect the rats.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. says that there is little risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans. But Wan said the findings highlight the need for continued monitoring of the rats to watch for the potential evolution of new strains of the virus that could be a risk to humans.
“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 increase our understanding so that we can protect human and animal health,” he said.
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