Over the years, the oversized rats that populate New York City's subway and sewage systems have been seen carrying everything from slices of pizza to women's cosmetics.
But a new study reveals they can also carry something far more substantial: the coronavirus and its variants.In a report published in Thursday's edition of the medical journal mBio, researchers say they've determined that New York's rats are capable of carrying three COVID variants. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has claimed animal-to-human transmission is very unlikely, the study's lead author says he's not so sure if that's true. Dr. Henry Wan says further research is needed " to determine if the virus is circulating in the animals and evolving into new strains that could pose a risk to humans."
For the study, Wan and his associates caught 79 rats in Manhattan and Brooklyn "in and around locations surrounding wastewater systems," he says. Of them, 13 tested positive for COVID-19 -- but not all from the some variant, per the study. While Wan and his associates don't break down the exact numbers, they say the rats were infected by the Alpha, Delta and Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus.
“Overall, our work in this space shows that animals can play a role in pandemics that impact humans,” the study reads. "And it’s important that we continue to increase our understanding so we can protect both human and animal health.”