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House mice in New York City carry plenty of bacteria, some that is resistant to antibiotics, a study found. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New Yorkers know to steer clear of the city’s rats for a multitude of reasons, one being that they can carry diseases. Now, a new study out of Columbia University is reminding residents of another rodent to be wary of.

 

Mice in New York City carry disease-causing bacteria, some of which may be resistant to antibiotics, according to the study.

 

The study, published Tuesday in the journal mBio, looked at New York City house mice as “potential reservoirs for pathogenic bacteria” that may spread to humans.

 

“From tiny studios to penthouse suites, New York City apartments are continually invaded by house mice,” lead author Simon H. Williams, a research scientist at CII, said in a statement. “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.”

 

Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health collected 416 mice over the course of a year from residential buildings throughout the city.

 

These researchers then analyzed the droppings from these mice and discovered that they carried several gastrointestinal disease-causing bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, C. difficile and more. Researchers also found evidence of genes exhibiting antimicrobial resistance to several common antibiotics.

A previous study of rats in New York by CII investigators found some of the same pathogens, according to the university, like E. coli and Salmonella, both of which can be associated with food poisoning, and C. difficile, which causes symptoms like diarrhea and colitis, or inflammation of the colon. 

New Yorkers tend to be too focused on rats, said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the school of public health, because they’re larger and more likely to be seen scurrying in the subway or alley.

“However, from a public health vantage point, mice are more worrisome,” he said in a statement, “because they live indoors and are more likely to contaminate our environment, even if we don’t see them.”