Many rats carry multi-resistant germs

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Every sixth rat in Berlin with multi-resistant intestinal germs

Scientists have examined a total of 56 dead recovered rates in Berlin. The researchers discovered that the rodents had multiresistant intestinal bacteria. In their final report, the veterinarians do not rule out that the germs can be transmitted to humans by the rats.

Transfer from animal to human not yet verifiable but possible
Berlin researchers discovered multiresistant intestinal germs in almost every sixth rat. This means that the dangerous bacteria are approximately as common in rats as in patients in German clinics. As the veterinarians at Freie Universität Berlin (FU) write, "the infected animals carry the Escherichia coli bacteria (ESBL)". So far, a transfer from animals to humans has not yet been proven. However, "the germs found in humans and animals are genetically similar".

During their study, the scientists examined 56 dead rates for the E. coli germ with the anti-biotic-splitting enzyme Extended Spectrum Betalactamase (ESBL). "In contrast to the MRSA germs, which recently made headlines, the ESBL germs are spreading more and more worldwide," says the first author of the study, Sebastian Günther. In addition, the named intestinal germs are considered "highly resistant". In many countries such as India, where the supply of antibiotic drugs is hardly regulated, a great many people already carry the dangerous germ within them.

Transmission could take place via smear infections
The examined carcasses come from 19 different regions of downtown Berlin. 47 animals were lured into the trap by pest control measures. Nine animals were recovered in the sewers. The multi-resistant bacteria were approximately twice as common in the sewer animals than in the above ground animals. "For us, this is an indication that the germs get into the animals through human faeces, for example from clinics," says Günther. A rat was caught in an apartment. The site suggests that the rats can use the immune system to bring the pathogens back to humans. "But there is no danger of rat bites, but rather from smear infections with animal droppings". The explosive: Many antibiotics are ineffective against the germs. Healing is usually very difficult and also life-threatening for people with previous illnesses.

Since 2010, the microbiologist and animal disease expert at the FU Berlin has examined around 250 samples of rat faeces and deceased rats for resistant germs. Günther usually receives the samples together with information about the location from the skull fighters. The scientist also cooperates with the water companies. "Actually, we would need a lot more samples for a systematic investigation," says the scientist, "but research on wild animals is funded inadequately in Germany." It is also difficult to get to the animals because often only one rat falls into the trap. If the animals were killed with rat poison, these are difficult to find or often in a state in which they can no longer be adequately examined.

Rats must be reported
Rats have been known as carriers of infectious diseases since time immemorial. The adaptable animals are still subject to registration. Quite a few rodents transmit leptospirosis, salmonella and hepatitis E. "Anyone who sees living or dead rats should report them to the authorities," says Brigitte Steffens from the health authority. However, if the animals are spotted on private property, the owners are responsible for pest control. (sb)

Image: willy s /

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Video: Maryn McKenna: What do we do when antibiotics dont work any more?


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