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New York mice carry unique viruses, drug-resistant bacteria
Joseph Scalise
A group of researchers from Columbia University have discovered that some mice in New York City carry previously unknown viruses and drug-resistant bacteria, according to two studies (1 and 2) published in the American Society for Microbiology.

The team reached this conclusion by conducting a year-long study on mice in the city, a survey that revealed many of the pests are much more dangerous than previously thought.

"Mouse droppings may contain harmful bacteria that are difficult to treat with common antibiotics," explained study co-author Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, according toCNN. "Contaminated areas should be thoroughly cleaned, and contaminated food should be discarded."

Researchers collected 416 mice from residential buildings at seven sites in four of New York City's five boroughs. After analyzing the rodents, they found 235 separate genera and 149 distinct species of bacteria -- including E. coli, Shigella and Salmonella -- in the rodents' droppings.Further research of the bacteria showed they had genes suggesting they were resistant to several common antibiotics.

Then, building off those findings, scientists in the second study analyzed 36 separate viruses in the droppings. Of those, six had never been seen before.

While none of the viruses are known to infect humans, they can infect dogs, chicken, and pigs. That is important because it suggests some viruses may have moved between different species.

Though many people fear rats, the team behind the research states that mice are much more concerning. Not only do they live indoors, but they are more likely to contaminate their environment.

Currently, there is no way to know where the mysterious bugs come from. However, the team plans to continue their research to get a better idea of their origin, as well as what they might mean for humans down the line.

"The next step is to determine whether [human] outbreaks of infection with bacteria can be traced back to exposure to mice," added Lipkin.

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