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Of Mice and Microbes

Mice living in New York are teeming with bacteria and viruses, including bacteria resistant to a number of antibiotics and viruses that have not been seen before, the New York Times reports.

In a pair of studies, researchers from Columbia University collected hundreds of mice from the basements of seven primarily residential buildings in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Through 16S rRNA sequencing of their fecal microbiomes, the Columbia researchers found Bacteroidetes to be the most dominant member of the microbiome, though also noted a high level of Proteobacteria, as they report in mBio this week. They further found that the mice carried a number of bacteria like ShigellaSalmonellaClostridium difficile, and Escherichia coli that cause gastrointestinal disease and that many of those disease-causing bugs harbored genes that confer resistance to fluoroquinolones and β-lactams.

Meanwhile, the researchers analyzed the fecal virome of the mice using high-throughput sequencing to uncover 36 different viruses, including six novel ones, as they write in a separate mBio paper.

Author Ian Lipkin from Columbia tells the Times that the findings emphasize that mice are a potential source of human infection and that measures should be taken to better control their numbers.