Rats in the New York City sewer system test positive for SARS-CoV


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A new study shows that mice are susceptible to infection with the alpha, delta, and omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 and that wild rats in the municipal sewage systems of New York City and elsewhere in the city were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. The study has been published in MbeoAn open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Rattus norvegicus / National Park Service

said study principal investigator Henry Wan, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Missouri. “Overall, our work in this space shows that animals can play a role in epidemics affecting humans, and it is important that we continue to increase our understanding so that we can protect human and animal health.”

Mice are widely distributed in urban communities in the United States. For example, New York City alone is home to nearly eight million wild rats. These wild rats have ample opportunities to interact with humans. Two previous studies indicated that mice in Asia (Hong Kong) and Europe (Belgium) were exposed to SARS-CoV-2; However, it is not known to which SARS-CoV-2 variant these mice were exposed to in both studies.

In the new study, the researchers set out to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 in humans transmitted to mice in urban areas of the United States, specifically New York City, and if so, which SARS-CoV-2 virus caused them. infections. The researchers also set out to determine if (and which) SARS-CoV-2 variants in New York City could cause infection in mice.

“In the fall of 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted an Animal and Plant Health Examination (APHIS) sampling of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) in New York City to look for evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said study co-author Tom. . DeLiberto, DVM, PhD, SARS-CoV-2 coordinator at USDA APHIS Wildlife Services. “Two trapping attempts were made during September and November with permission from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in and around locations around the septic systems. Most of the rats were trapped in city parks within Brooklyn, although some were caught near buildings outside park boundaries.”

The biologists collected and processed samples from 79 mice for virological and genetic sequencing studies. The researchers found that mice exposed to SARS-CoV-2 showed potential binding to viruses that were circulating in humans during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, 13 of 79 rats (16.5%) tested positive. “To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show that SARS-CoV-2 variants can cause infection in populations of wild mice in a major metropolitan area in the United States,” said Dr. Wan.

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To further investigate the susceptibility of mice to infection with SARS-CoV-2 variants, the researchers conducted a virus challenge study and showed that Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants (variants found in humans) could cause infection in mice (wild Sprague Dawley rats), including levels of High replication in the upper and lower respiratory tract and induction of innate and adaptive immune responses. Susceptibility varies according to the type of variant.

“Our findings highlight the need for further surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in mouse populations to determine whether the virus is circulating in the animals and evolving into new strains that could pose a risk to humans,” said Dr. Wan. SARS-CoV-2 presents a typical One Health challenge that requires collaborative, multisectoral, and multidisciplinary approaches to fully understand these challenges.

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