New York City is infamous for graffiti-covered buildings, rough neighborhoods, and rats the size of raccoons, but it turns out it should be paying more attention to its mice: according to a new study, 23 percent (roughly 1 in 4) of New York mice carry a drug-resistant gene, making them excellent carriers for all kinds of diseases, including six previously undiscovered viruses.
A new study into hundreds of rodents caught from domestic premises found evidence of pathogens such as E.coli, C. difficile and Salmonella.
The new study, which took place in NY, follows an investigation in London previous year which revealed the Tube network was a "hotbed" of drug-resistant superbugs, carried rodents. A genetic analysis of their droppings revealed that the mice carry several gastrointestinal disease-causing bacteria, including C. difficile, E. coli, Shigella, as well as Salmonella, a leading cause of bacterial food poisoning in the US with 1.4 million reported cases annually along with 15,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths.
"From tiny studios to penthouse suites, New York City apartments are continually invaded by house mice", says lead author Simon H. Williams, BSc, a research scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity.
Experts warn the findings, published today, reveal another line of attack as we fight to stave off antibiotic resistance.
"Our study raises the possibility that serious infections - including those resistant to antibiotics -may be passed from these mice to humans, although further research is needed to understand how often this happens, if at all".
Genetic analysis of their droppings revealed these included strains resistant to several common antibiotics.
According to the researchers, it is well known that salmonella infections can be the result of food contaminated with animal waste - including mouse feces.
A second study also looked at all the viruses found in mice droppings. But the same viruses do infect dogs, chickens and pigs.
New Yorkers tend to be too focused on rats, said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the school of public health, because they're larger and more likely to be seen scurrying in the subway or alley.