Scientists at Columbia University published results Tuesday explaining their findings after capturing 133 New York City rats and examining them for pathogens.
“Everybody’s looking all over the world (for viruses and bacteria), in all sorts of exotic places, including us,” Ian Lipkin, a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia, told the New York Times. “But nobody’s looking right under our noses.”
FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2005 file photo, a rat comes briefly out of its hole at a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, before retreating at the arrival of the F train. (AP Photo Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
But, perhaps they should be. After analyzing the 133 rats, the team found plenty of pathogens — including some that cause food-borne illnesses and others that were never found in the city before, the Times reported.
President of EcoHealth Alliance Peter Daszak called the findings "shocking and surprising."
[sharequote align="center"]“This is a recipe for a public health nightmare."[/sharequote]
“This is a recipe for a public health nightmare,” he told the Times.
FILE- In this June 15, 2010 file photo, a rat moves along the ground near the subway tracks at Union Square in New York. In July 2014, New York City plans to got to war with its rat population. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
Scientists found diseases previously known to exist in rats, including pathogens that can cause food poisoning and fevers.
However, the team also made a "groundbreaking" discovery by identifying 18 unknown species known to cause disease in humans, said David Patrick, director of the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.
“These viruses may or may not have any links to human illness, but it is good to be able to describe them in detail,” he told the Times.
Researchers, however, did not find some of the worst pathogens known to sometimes exist in rats. For instance, Yersinia pestis, which causes the bubonic plague, was not identified in any of the 133 rats.
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