Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in urban Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) populations: epidemiology and the impacts of kill-trapping.
Urban Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) populations can carry the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). There are numerous knowledge gaps in the epidemiology of MRSA in these populations that limit understanding of its ecology in urban environments. For example, fecal shedding of MRSA, which may increase environmental contamination, has been reported in other species; however, it is unknown whether Norway rats carry the bacteria rectally. Furthermore, while intermittent MRSA shedding has been shown in other species and may dictate when the risk of transmission is highest, duration of carriage has not been examined for Norway rats. Previous work has shown that lethal animal-control methods may increase the level of pathogens within reservoir populations, possibly by disrupting ecological patterns. However, the impact of rodent-control on potentially environmentally acquired pathogens like MRSA has not been tested. Using capture-mark-recapture methods in an inner-city neighborhood in Vancouver, Canada, we show that rats intermittently carry MRSA both in the rectum and oropharynx. By assessing the prevalence of MRSA before and after enacting a pest-control intervention, we report that kill-trapping had no impact on the prevalence of carriage of this environmentally-acquired agent.