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Study finds that NYC’s mice are covered with drug-resistant bacteria

By Clayton Guse

New Yorkers are used to dealing with rats. Heck, on Tuesday Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a strange press event during which he rallied support for his “war on rats” and proceeded to smile jovially while a team of city workers literally gassed a colony of the vermin to death. 

But often forgotten amongst the city’s rodent population are the rat’s smaller counterpart, house mice, and a new study from of Columbia University shows that the critters may pose significant health risks for New Yorkers. Published in the journal mBio on Tuesday, the study surveyed 416 mice at seven sites across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The findings were, well, concerning to anyone who isn’t keen on contracting a nasty disease. 

Among the mice surveyed in the study, 37 percent of them carried at least one type of “potentially pathogenic bacterium,” (read: contagious disease), including Shigella, Salmonella, Clostridium difficile and E. coli. But the nasty nature of the fuzzy rodents goes far beyond the fact that they carry gross germs—many of them also carry bacteria and viruses that are resistant to antibiotics. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the mice studied harbored bacteria that tested positive for at least one anti-microbial resistant gene. 

What does this mean? The mice that are rummaging around businesses and residences across town are capable of not only spreading hazardous diseases, but some of those strains of bacteria and viruses are resistant to medicine.

“House mice occupy a niche position within many urban structures (e.g., homes, restaurants and schools) wherein they have even more intimate contact with humans,” the study states.

That intimate contact, the study’s findings suggest, is much more worrisome than having a rat scurry across your shoe on a subway platform. So, the next time you encounter an adorable, helpless mouse in your apartment, remember that it could be carrying a payload of pathogens capable of giving you chronic diarrhea. 

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