Infection researchers detect multidrug-resistant pathogens in urban brown rats

09.09.2019 12:28

Rat plague in Vienna: Infection researchers highlight multidrug-resistant pathogens in urban brown rats

Rats could pose a major threat to the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria in cities. A team of researchers from Austria and Germany came to this conclusion after studies on rat populations in Vienna. InfectoGnostics researchers based in Jena performed genetic analyzes of the samples and were able to show that the animals were carrying high-risk pathogens resistant to most antibiotics. The results of the study were published in August in the journal "Eurosurveillance" (DOI: 10.2807 / 1560-7917.ES.2019.24.32.1900149).

Also because of the increasingly hot and dry summers, more and more harmful rats are reported in European cities – both in Germany and in Austria. In Vienna, an international research team took a closer look at the pathogens that could be transmitted by rodents. Between 2016 and 2017, scientists from Karlsplatz in Vienna and on the Danube Canal Promenade had captured a total of 76 brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) using live traps. Both locations were specifically selected: On the one hand, animals from these locations are more frequently in contact with humans. On the other hand, it has been reported that many nocturnal animals from these areas were also seen during the day, indicating a large rat population.

Characterization of the bacterium at the Jena Research Campus

In the laboratory, samples of the intestinal tract and nasopharynx of 62 animals were then examined. Overall, antibiotic-resistant bacteria were identified in 39 rats (approximately 62.9%), of which 12 were carriers of multidrug-resistant pathogen variants. "We have found bacteria that are already resistant to up to four classes of antibiotics, and these very resistant pathogens are a serious danger because they can transfer their resistance genes to other bacterial species," says the researcher. 39; InfectoGnostics, Prof. Dr. med. Ralf Ehricht of the Institute of Photonic Technologies of Leibniz (Leibniz-IPHT). The team around Prof. Ehricht and Dr. med. Stefan Monecke (also Leibniz-IPHT) performed the genetic analysis of the Viennese sample material from the study and used, among other things, the CarbDetect AS-2 kit developed on the research campus.

Vienna veterinarian: the frequency of multidrug-resistant bacteria is worrying

According to the main authors of the study conducted by Vetmeduni Vienna, the exact interaction between multidrug-resistant bacteria in the rat and the risk to human health is not yet clarified, but at this frequency it is very worrying. Veterinarians continue: "One of the rats we studied was captured in a green zone used as a sleeping place by homeless people in the summer, which increases the risk of transmission of resistant bacteria. Other scenarios are possible for transmission.The fight against rats, but also other rodents such as mice, is and remains an important public health priority in the cities. "

Rats – a dangerous disease carrier

Brown rats play a particularly important role in the spread and development of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Rats are considered the most productive and widespread urban pest species. They feed on human waste and colonize the sewer system, allowing them to interact with human feces and ingest and spread multidrug-resistant bacteria. Little is known about the exact role of rats in the epidemiology of multidrug – resistant bacteria. This study therefore makes an important contribution to improving the level of knowledge in this area.

Researchers from the Vetmeduni Vienna (Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology, Institute of Microbiology), the Austrian Agency for Food Safety (AGES), the Freie Universität Berlin and the Leibniz IPHT of the InfectoGnostics Jena research campus have cooperated with the study.

Original publication:

Desvars-Larrive, Amelie and Ruppitsch, Werner and Lepuschitz, Sarah and Szostak, Michael P and Spergser, Joachim and Feßler, Andrea T and Schwarz, Stefan and Monecke, Stefan and Ehricht, Ralf and Waltz, Chris and Lustaric, Chris and Loncaric, Igor rats (Rattus norvegicus) as a possible source of multiresistant enterobacteria and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, Vienna, Austria, 2016 and 2017, Eurosurveillance, 24, 1900149 (2019), DOI: 10.2807 / 1560-7917. ES.2019.24. 32.1900149

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