Findings of two new studies, which were published in the journal mBio on April 17, revealed that mice living in apartment buildings and at the most exclusive addresses in New York City are carrying disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and antibiotic-resistant bugs.
Bacteria, Viruses, And Superbugs In Mice Droppings
Analysis of feces from more than 400 mice that were captured from buildings in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens show that the droppings contained viruses that have never been seen before and those that have not been known to causes diseases in humans.
Researchers also found that the feces contain disease-causing pathogens as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as those that have become almost untreatable at hospitals.
Although it is not clear if the bacteria carried by the captured city mice pose health threats to people or have already caused diseases, rodents have long been associated with illnesses such as the Black Death.
Preventing Mice From Spreading Diseases
Humans should do their part to prevent contracting diseases from mice. One way to do this is to ensure that food, and even garbage, are kept in mouse-proof containers. Mice tend to leave their dropping and urine anywhere they scurry, which can spread germs.
Ian Lipkin, from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who is part of the two studies, noted that most of the trapping they did was close to garbage pails and trash compactors.
"People put everything into these," he said. "There's going to be fruit and old bread and all kinds of things. There is plenty of opportunities for infection and for bacteria to remain behind."
People also need to control rodent infestation. Lipkin said that people should clean up with germ-killing products such as bleach if they find evidence of rodents at home.
"Mouse droppings may contain harmful bacteria that are difficult to treat with common antibiotics," said Lipkin said. "Contaminated areas should be thoroughly cleaned, and contaminated food should be discarded."
Charles Calisher, from Colorado State University, who was not involved in the studies, said that large apartment buildings need to fill any gaps in the foundation. Residents should also trap and control rodents found indoors.
Will Cats Help?
As for getting a cat to help control rodents, Calisher warned that cats also have their own viruses.
It may not also be a good idea to get a cat for the sole purpose of killing mice. If an infestation is serious, getting help from a professional exterminator is a better option.