Mice May Be Contributing to Antibiotic Resistance

Mice May Be Contributing to Antibiotic Resistance

Mice are commensal creatures. They like being around us whether we like it or not.  Yet the mice living near us may carry genes that contribute to the looming threat of superbugs.


Researchers analyzed stool, kidney, and liver samples in two side-by-side studies from over 400 mice living in five residential buildings and two commercial buildings in New York City. They found evidence of pathogens capable of making us sick, and some of the microbial genes capable of making bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics.


Mice carry all sorts of human diseases. Researchers found evidence of C. difficileSalmonellaE. coliShigellaKlebsiella pneumoniaeClostridium perfringens and Leptospira—all of which are species of bacteria capable making people sick.


They also found evidence of 22 different bacterial genes capable of turning normally curable infections into superbugs. In total, about 37% of all the mice sampled carried some sort of potentially harmful bacteria, and about a quarter of them carried drug-resistant bacterial genes.


No viruses were found that are known to infect humans. However, they did find viruses that looked like they had jumped from pigs or dogs to mice, meaning that these viruses could conceivably mutate to infect humans, too.


There’s no direct evidence that mice are actively making New Yorkers sick, or actively fostering the development of drug-resistant infections. But this work does suggest that urban mice should be studied further as a potential health risk.


If mice in New York are carrying these pathogens and bacterial genes, it’s highly likely that mice in cities all over the world are, too.


Find the study here.

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