Rats carry COVID-19: ‘Could pose a risk to humans,’ new study says


New York City rodents can carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 – and researchers fear it could be transmitted to humans, according to a new study.

The new research, published Thursday in the American Society for Microbiology “mBio,” determined that the rats could be infected with the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants.

“Our findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in rat populations for potential secondary zoonotic transmission to humans,” Dr. Henry Wan, the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement.

“Overall, our work in this space shows that animals can play a role in pandemics that impact humans, and it’s important that we continue to increase our understanding so we can protect both human and animal health,” added Dr. Wan, who also serves as a professor and the director for the University of Missouri’s Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The initial sample collection occurred in the fall of 2021 in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Researchers collected samples from 79 Norway rats in the Big Apple to “look for evidence” of COVID-19 transmission.

While only 13 tested positive for the virus, the researchers touted the study as the first of its kind to analyze US rodent infections. But they didn’t stop there – scientists also conducted a “virus challenge study” that determined which specific variants could infect the vermin.

The new study results “highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in rat populations to determine if the virus is circulating in the animals and evolving into new strains that could pose a risk to humans,” Dr. Wan warned, echoing the findings of past studies.

The furry critters of “pizza rat” fame have become both a Manhattan staple and a pesky nuisance, as fed-up New Yorkers call on city officials to evict the vermin.

Mayor Eric Adams declared a war on rats last year as the vermin sightings soared into the thousands.


Adopting the slogan, “The rats don’t run this city. We do,” the city’s officials are cracking down on the rodent populations, calling on for-hire Rat Czars and introducing new regulations.

In addition to Times Square garbage bins, Adams also signed legislation that would force landlords to purchase rat-proof garbage bins if they can’t prevent the pests from rummaging through trash bags.

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