Rats are everywhere. Especially in cities. Disease is everywhere. Especially in cities.
It seems then somewhat surprising that no study has yet surveyed local rat populations—until now. C. Firth and PI Ian Lipkin recently published an in depth analysis of the lovely pathogens harbored by, arguably, our most ubiquitous furry friends in new york city. And their results show that, not only do rats shelter a large variety of dangerous viruses, but that this study probably should have been conducted earlier.
Some of the most deadly human viral infections are zoonosis—meaning viruses that infect animals and enter human populations via close contact. Thus, this survey of 133 rats presents a nice sample (but probably incomplete) of what we might expect to find on these other city dwellers. One of the main findings was the percent of Seoul virus (SEOV) a hantavirus. Other notable viruses detected included anellovirus, parvovirus, circovirus, picornavirus, flavivirus and rotavirus. Nearly all of these viruses could be a public health concern. The rats all had high viral loads with the leading represented families being picornaviruses (1.8 picornaviruses per rat) and flaviviruses (.48 flaviviruses per rat)
On a more positive note, the research also found Hepatitis C like virus in the livers of many of the rats, providing a possible future model of Hep C in humans.
Full article can be found here: http://mbio.asm.org/content/5/5/e01933-14