Study Finds NYC Rats Carry More Pathogens Than Previously Thought

FAIRFAX, Va. (October 20, 2014) – According to a team of researchers from Columbia University, rats in New York City carry a large number of viruses previously unknown to science, along with an average of two bacteria types per rat that are capable of causing gastrointestinal problems in humans. The researchers spent a year collecting 133 rats from various locations in Manhattan.

The specimens were found to be carrying food-borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli. Scientists studying the rats also found the Seoul hantavirus for the first time in New York City, an illness capable of causing potentially life-threatening hemorrhagic fever and kidney failure.  In total, 18 new viruses were discovered throughout the course of the study. Rats leave pathogens behind that humans may come in contact with in the form of their saliva, urine and feces.

This study follows a city audit showing an increase in rat complaints and slow response times. Pest control group Orkin has rated New York City as the 4th "rattiest" based on number of performed rodent treatments.