Researchers who recently examined rats in New York City discovered a large number of pathogens inside the animals, including some that had never before been found in New York, according to a new study.
The researchers from Columbia University identified bacterial pathogens inside the rats, including E. coli, Salmonella, and C. difficile, which can cause food-borne illnesses in people.
Other pathogens included the closest relative to human hepatitis C and Seoul hantavirus, which causes Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever and kidney failure in humans and has never been seen in New York.
The 133 Norway rats researchers examined were trapped from inside residential buildings in the the city, researchers said.
The study follows an audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer showing an increase in rat complaints in 2014 and slow response times by the city. Pest control group Orkin also recently released its ranking of the nation's "rattiest" cities with New York landing in fourth place.
Researchers said they didn't know how often humans become sick from rats, but that rats leave behind pathogens people or pets can can come in contact with in saliva, urine, and feces.
“New Yorkers are constantly exposed to rats and the pathogens they carry, perhaps more than any other animal,” said Cadhala Firth, the study's author. “Despite this, we know very little about the impact they have on human health.”