New research has revealed that New York rats may be potential carriers of the coronavirus. And while public health officials say that transmission of COVID-19 from animals to humans is extremely rare, the study’s authors are calling for a closer look at the issue to see if new strains exist in rats, The Guardian reports.
New York City rats were already known for running around the subway with scraps of food, The Guardian writes. But a new study has found that they can also be potential carriers of the COVID-19 virus, and that has raised concerns among experts, the article says.
The results of the study have been published in the open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology called mBio. The experts who carried it out concluded that rats living in New York City, with a population of about 8 million people, are susceptible to three variants of COVID-19, the article explains.
For their part, representatives of the U.S. federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that transmission of COVID-19 from animals to humans is quite rare. According to their statistics, in most cases, on the contrary, animals are infected with the coronavirus from humans.
“There is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread among humans of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC said in a statement published on its Web site.
However, the lead author of the study, Dr. Henry Wang, who heads the Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Missouri, called for a more thorough analysis and close examination of the presence of new strains of the virus among rats. He said the new results underscore the need to further study the risk of the virus in rat populations “to determine whether the virus is circulating among animals and developing into new strains that could pose a risk to humans,” the article said.
Wang also noted, the study was one of the first scientific papers to show how different strains of COVID-19 “can cause infections in wild rat populations living in large urban areas of the United States.” Previous studies conducted in rat populations in Hong Kong and Belgium have also shown that they were exposed to COVID-19 virus, although it is unclear which strain was present there, The Guardian writes.
During the latest study in New York, scientists conducted virological studies and genome sequencing using samples taken from 79 rats for analysis. They captured the rats with permission from the New York City Parks Department, mostly in Brooklyn parks and especially “in areas surrounding sewer systems,” the article explains. In doing so, 13 of the rats they examined tested positive for COVID-19.
The experts then conducted a “viral load” study and found that such subvariants of the coronavirus as “alpha,” “delta” and “omicron” could cause the infection to spread among rats, the article says. “
” In general, our work in this area shows that animals can play a role in pandemics affecting humans – and it is important that we continue to advance our knowledge so that we can protect the health of both humans and animals,” the study authors conclude.