They live underground and gorge themselves in dumpsters. This hour, we’re taking a long, hard look at creatures you’d probably rather not think about: RATS!
We hear about how the city of Hartford is fighting these unwelcome rodent residents, and we ask a researcher why are these scurrying creatures so successful at living alongside humans?
And later, we take a look at another rodent's impact on our health, as we learn why scientists are trying a new strategy to fight Lyme Disease. Researchers in Connecticut have been vaccinating tiny white-footed mice against Lyme Disease in an effort to reduce the number of ticks carrying the illness.
Rats scurrying among open garbage bins in New Orleans (curtesy of Jason Munshi-South)
- Dan Lusa - Rodent inspector for the city of Hartford
- Liany Arroyo - Director of Department of Health and Human Services for the city of Hartford
- Jason Munshi-South - Professor of Biology at Fordham University. His lab studies animals that live in cities, and focuses particularly on rats. (@urbanevol)
- Angus Chen - New York-based science reporter. His recent article in Scientific American looked at research on vaccinating white-footed mice for Lyme disease (@angRchen)
Hartford Courant: As rodent problems vex Hartford, city leaders mount an attack (January 2019) – “In Hartford, officials are planning to launch an education campaign to remind residents how to properly dispose of trash, how to prevent rodents from entering the home, the importance of managing vegetation and how to use the city’s 311 phone system and mobile application, which help workers track trends and direct resources.”
Washington Post: As cities report more rats than ever, scientists find eastside and westside rodents (June 2018) – “Last November, Munshi-South and company published a paper that described the relationship of rat colonies in New York City. They found that uptown and downtown rats are separate populations, divided by a relatively inhospitable (to rats) commercial district in midtown Manhattan. That work suggested a barrier to genetic flow across the middle of the city — where rats won't travel, neither do their genes.”
Scientific American: Vaccinating Mice May Finally Slow Lyme Disease (January 2019) – “Roughly half of ticks carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, pick it up by biting infected white-footed mice. That makes these fist-size fuzz balls the most important carriers of the bacteria and a prime target for a Lyme vaccine, Stafford says. In theory, vaccinating enough mice should lower the number of ticks that acquire Borrelia in the first place. And fewer infected ticks means fewer infected bites on humans.”
Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on February 1, 2019.