Exposure to Rats and Rat-Associated Leptospira and Bartonella Species Among People Who Use Drugs in an Impoverished, Inner-City Neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2018 Feb;18(2):82-88. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2017.2179. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Rat infestations are common, particularly in impoverished, inner-city neighborhoods. However, there has been little research into the nature and consequences of rat exposure in these neighborhoods, particularly in Canada. In this study, we sought to characterize exposure to rats and rat-associated Leptospira interrogans and Bartonella tribocorum, as well as risk factors associated with exposure, in residents (n = 202) of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada. There was no evidence of exposure to rat-associated L. interrogans but 6/202 (3.0%) of participants were exposed to B. tribocorum, which is known to be circulating among DTES rats. We also found that frequent and close rat exposure was common among DTES residents, and that this exposure was particularly associated with injection drug use and outdoor income-generating activities (e.g., drug dealing). These risk factors may be good targets for interventions geared toward effectively reducing rat exposure.

Keywords: Bartonella; Leptospirosis; Rattus norvegicus; rat exposure; zoonotic disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Bartonella / immunology
  • Bartonella Infections / epidemiology*
  • British Columbia / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections
  • Humans
  • Leptospira interrogans / immunology
  • Leptospira interrogans / isolation & purification
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology*
  • Leptospirosis / veterinary
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty Areas
  • Rats
  • Rodent Diseases / microbiology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population


  • Antibodies, Bacterial