A new study found New York City mice carrying disease-causing bacteria, some of which are said to be highly resistant to antibiotics.
In a study published in the journal mBio, researchers from the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reveal that mice in NYC houses carry some disease-causing bacteria that may be resistant to antibiotics.
The scientists reportedly collected over 400 mice from residential buildings at seven sites in New York City for a year. Upon analyzing the rodents’ droppings, it was discovered that they carry several gastrointestinal disease-causing pathogens such as E.colli, C. difficile, Shigella, and Salmonella.
The latter is considered one of the leading causes of bacterial food poisoning in the United States with over a million reported cases per year.
“From tiny studios to penthouse suites, New York City apartments are continually invaded by house mice,” Simon Williams, a researcher from the Center for Infection and Immunity, said.
“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.”
The mice used in the study appeared to be healthy, an indication that they are not affected by the bacteria that they are carrying. However, it’s still not clear how the rodents acquired the antibiotic-resistant bacteria or if they could infect people.
“They are a potential source of human infection. The real message is that these things are everywhere,” Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, said.
Experts said that it would be nearly impossible to conduct research directly linking a mouse pathogen with any human disease. This is due to the fact that the source of a patient’s infection is rarely investigated. Aside from that, without any knowledge of where the mice originated, it would be challenging to determine what’s driving them.
While it’s quite impossible to get rid of urban mice, the study only suggests that specific measures must be put in place to control the rodent’s populations and their interactions with humans.