Rats, cities, people, and pathogens: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of literature regarding the ecology of rat-associated zoonoses in urban centers

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2013 Jun;13(6):349-59. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2012.1195. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


Urban Norway and black rats (Rattus norvegicus and Rattus rattus) are the source of a number of pathogens responsible for significant human morbidity and mortality in cities around the world. These pathogens include zoonotic bacteria (Leptospira interrogans, Yersina pestis, Rickettsia typhi, Bartonella spp., Streptobacillus moniliformis), viruses (Seoul hantavirus), and parasites (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). A more complete understanding of the ecology of these pathogens in people and rats is critical for determining the public health risks associated with urban rats and for developing strategies to monitor and mitigate those risks. Although the ecology of rat-associated zoonoses is complex, due to the multiple ways in which rats, people, pathogens, vectors, and the environment may interact, common determinants of human disease can still be identified. This review summarizes the ecology of zoonoses associated with urban rats with a view to identifying similarities, critical differences, and avenues for further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission*
  • Cities
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Ecology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parasitic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Parasitic Diseases / transmission*
  • Public Health
  • Rats*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rodent Diseases / epidemiology
  • Rodent Diseases / microbiology
  • Rodent Diseases / parasitology
  • Rodent Diseases / transmission*
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / transmission*
  • Zoonoses / transmission*