Unintentional infection of laboratory rodents can compromise scientific research as well as the health of the animals and animal handlers. The source of contamination often is unknown, but may be introduced by wild rats from surrounding environments. To determine whether rats in Baltimore, Maryland, USA carry infectious agents commonly found in laboratory rodent colonies, we live-trapped 162 rats during 2005 to 2006 and screened them for a panel of viruses, bacteria and parasites. Antibodies against rat coronavirus/ sialodacryoadenitis virus (91.7%), Mycoplasma pulmonis (72.9%), cilia-associated respiratory bacillus (52.1%), rat parvovirus/rat minute virus (29.2%), Kilham rat virus (10.4%), Toolan's H-1 virus (10.4%), Sendai virus (4.2%) and Theiler's mouse encephalomyelitis virus (4.2%), were detected in wild-caught Norway rats. Antibodies against reovirus and pneumonia virus of mice were not detected in wild Norway rats. Endoparasites, including Nippostrongylus braziliensis (71.6%), Rodentolepis nana or Hymenolepis diminuta (34.4%), Hetarakis spumosa (24.1%) and Trichuris muris (14.8%), as well as ectoparasites (14.8%), were identified in wild-caught rats. The risk of pathogen transmission from wild-caught rats to laboratory colonies needs to be mitigated by minimizing exposures rather than assuming wild animals represent a minimal hazard.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology