Maureen H. Murray, Cecilia A. Sánchez
Aug 1, 2021
Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) deployed to control rodent pest populations can increase the risk of pathogen infection for some wildlife. However, it is unknown whether ARs also increase infection risk for target rodents, which are common hosts for zoonotic (animal-to-human transmitted) pathogens. In this study, we tested whether rats exposed to ARs were more likely to be infected with zoonotic pathogens, specifically Leptospira spp. or Escherichia coli, after controlling for known predictors of infection (i.e. sex, age, body condition). We collected biological samples from 99 rats trapped in Chicago alleys and tested these for Leptospira infection, E. coli shedding and AR exposure. We found that rats that had been exposed to ARs and survived until the time of trapping, as well as older rats, were significantly more likely to be infected with Leptospira spp. than other rats. We found no significant association between E. coli shedding and any predictors. Our results show that human actions to manage rats can affect rat disease ecology and public health risks in unintended ways, and more broadly, contribute to a growing awareness of bidirectional relationships between humans and natural systems in cities.