The new study on the potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in New York’s Norway rats has raised concerns in the scientific community, suggesting that these animals could act as reservoirs of the virus in the city.
Researchers captured 79 rats from three locations in Brooklyn in the fall of 2021 and tested them for exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Of these, 13 (16.5%) had IgG or IgM antibodies to the virus, suggesting prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
In addition, two rats tested positive in blood tests and carried viral RNA, implying that previously exposed, seropositive animals can still contract and excrete SARS-CoV-2. Genomic analyses showed that the viruses infecting the rats were associated with the B lineage strain, which was dominant in the city at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These findings are important because they suggest that Norway rats may act as reservoirs of the virus in New York City and, therefore, could contribute to the spread of the virus in the human population.
While it has so far been shown that humans can spread the virus to animals, reports of infected animals spreading the virus to humans through close contact are rare, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, it is important to continue to study the potential spread of the virus in animals to better understand how the disease spreads and to be able to take preventive measures to protect both human and animal health. The findings of this study underscore the need for continued monitoring of rat populations in New York City to monitor the evolution of new strains of the virus.
In addition, it is important to note that this study should not create panic among the population, as humans are still much more likely to contract the virus from other humans than from animals. However, it is an important reminder that the virus is still circulating and that we must continue to take precautionary measures to prevent its spread.
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