"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, andpestilences STONG’S NUMBER: 3061 loimos, loy´-mos; of uncertain affinity; a plague (literally, the disease, or figuratively, a pest):—pestilence(-t)and earthquakes, in divers places." — Matthew 24:7
March 9 (UPI) — A new study released Thursday found that wild rats can contract COVID-19 variants, leading to the possibility of secondary transmission to humans.
The study, published in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society of Microbiology, said that 16.5% of wild rats trapped in city parks and near buildings in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the early stages of the pandemic tested positive for the virus.
Biologists collected and processed samples from 79 rats for virological studies and genomic sequencing and found evidence that linked the viruses carried by rats to that found circulating in humans.
The authors said that to investigate the rats’ further susceptibility to COVID-19 variants, researchers conducted a virus challenge study and showed that Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants also can cause infections in rats.
“Our findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in rat populations for potential secondary zoonotic transmission to humans,” said Henry Wan, the principal investigator, said in a statement.
“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,” said Wan, a professor and director of the Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Missouri.
Researchers said the possibility for animal-to-human contact is higher in urban areas. They said in New York City alone has about 8 million wild rats with ample opportunities to interact with humans.
Release of the study after New York City reported last year a sharp increase in rat sightings despite a more stringent effort to lower the population in the five boroughs.
That study, which compared right sightings from 2021 to 2020, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, said city staff record nearly 21,600 rodent complaints through the end of September, a 74% increase from the same time in 2020.