Study: Several COVID variants found in New York rat population

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 17: A rat sticks its head out of a garbage can as it hunts for food in Bogardus Plaza in Tribeca on August 17, 2022, in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images) (Gary Hershorn, 2022 Gary Hershorn)

NEW YORK – A new study found multiple strains of the coronavirus in rats.

The animals in New York were found to be infected with the alpha, delta and omicron variants.

Scientists say the findings show additional monitoring of COVID-19 in rat populations is important to keep track of the virus possibly spreading from animals to humans.

“Most of the rats were trapped in city parks within Brooklyn, although some were captured near buildings outside of park boundaries,” study co-author Dr. Tom DeLiberto said in a news release.

DeLiberto is also the SARS-CoV-2 coordinator with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

According to CNN, between 13% and 16.5% of the 79 rats that were captured were found to have IgG or IgM antibodies against the virus, suggesting they had previously been infected by the COVID-19 virus.

“A number of studies have suggested that fragments of SARS-CoV-2 genomes were identified in sewage water systems, and that the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage water systems coincides with outbreaks in resident human populations,” the researchers wrote in their study. “However, no evidence has shown that SARS-CoV-2 viruses in sewage water are infectious, suggesting that sewage rats may have been exposed to the virus through airborne transmission, e.g. overlapping living spaces with humans or indirect transmission from unknown fomites, e.g. contaminated food waste.”

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Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for