Monitoring urban zoonotic virus activity: Are city rats a promising surveillance tool for emerging viruses?
Urban environments represent unique ecosystems where dense human populations may come into contact with wildlife species, some of which are established or potential reservoirs for zoonotic pathogens that cause human diseases. Finding practical ways to monitor the presence and/or abundance of zoonotic pathogens is important to estimate the risk of spillover to humans in cities. As brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are ubiquitous in urban habitats, and are hosts of several zoonotic viruses, we conducted longitudinal sampling of brown rats in Vienna, Austria, a large population center in Central Europe.
We investigated rat tissues for the presence of several zoonotic viruses, including flaviviruses, hantaviruses, coronaviruses, poxviruses, hepatitis E virus, encephalomyocarditis virus, and influenza A virus. Although we found no evidence of active infections (all were negative for viral nucleic acids) among 96 rats captured between 2016 and 2018, our study supports the findings of others, suggesting that monitoring urban rats may be an efficient way to estimate the activity of zoonotic viruses in urban environments.
Jeremy V. Camp, Amélie Desvars-Larrive, Norbert Nowotny, Chris Walzer, Monitoring urban zoonotic virus activity: Are city rats a promising surveillance tool for emerging viruses?, Viruses 14 (7) (2022) 1516