A recent study reveals that rats in New York City can carry various strains of Covid.

According to a recently published article in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, a new study has discovered that rats in New York City can carry the COVID-19 virus. The study found that these rats are capable of carrying three different variants of the virus.

The researchers cautioned that in a city with an estimated rat population of 8 million, infected wild rats have ample opportunities to interact with humans. During the Black Death pandemic that ravaged Europe from 1347-1351, the prevailing belief was that rodents were responsible for transmitting the virus to humans. A significant number of rodents were infested with fleas carrying the plague, which then infected a vast human population.

The possibility of rats carrying the virus responsible for COVID-19 is now a significant point of concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that while animal-to-human transmission of COVID-19 is uncommon, it is important to note that in most cases, animals are infected by humans.

Dr. Henry Wan, the lead researcher of the study, emphasized that additional investigation is necessary before making any firm conclusions about the issue. According to Dr. Wan, it is critical to evaluate the danger of the virus in rat populations to ascertain if the virus is present among them and transforming into new variations that may endanger humans.

According to Dr. Wan, who serves as the director of the Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Disease at the University of Missouri, the study is one of the first to demonstrate how COVID-19 variants can lead to infections in wild rats in a significant urban area in the United States.

The virus responsible for COVID-19 was detected in rats in Hong Kong and Belgium, but the specific variant remains unclear.

On Thursday, a study was released in which researchers conducted virological studies and genomic sequencing on 79 rat samples. The rats were primarily captured in parks located in Brooklyn with permission from the NYC parks department, specifically in and around areas surrounded by wastewater systems.

Of 79 rats, 13 tested positive for COVID-19. Researchers then conducted a virus challenge study and found Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants infections in Sprague Dawley rats. 

According to the study authors, “Our research highlights that animals can have a significant impact on pandemics that affect humans. Therefore, it is crucial that we continue to expand our knowledge in this area to safeguard the health of both humans and animals.”

Dr. J. Scott Weese, the director of the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses at the University of Guelph in Canada, commented that while the risk of contracting COVID-19 from animals remains low compared to transmission from humans, it is essential to bear in mind that the virus is still spreading. Although he was not involved in the new study, Dr. Weese emphasized that it serves as a useful reminder to consider animal and human health together in the broader context, both for the present and the future.

COVID-19 infections have previously been reported in other animals such as cats, dogs, primates, hippos, deer, and anteaters.

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