Rats can act as vectors of diseases due to their ability to absorb disease agents from their environment and spread these pathogens, endangering the health of poultry and even humans. A study on the feces of rats caught in a poultry farm in British Columbia, found that rats carried potentially harmful multidrug resistant strains of avian Escherichia coli. These bacteria have the ability to cause gastrointestinal disease in poultry. The same strain of the bacterium has also been associated with human infections as well. The pathogenic bacteria was also isolated from the fur and appendages of one quarter of the trapped rodents.
The lead author, of this study that will appear in the ‘Journal of Wildlife Diseases,’ was surprised to find that the E. coli strains carried by the farm rats were totally different from E. coli strains found in urban rats. Further study of the gut microbiome of rural rats concluded that the rural rat gut had close similarities to the intestinal microbiota of poultry.
It is also evident that if rats are capable of absorbing E. coli from the environment, they can also be the source of transfer of numerous other pathogenic diseases. Rat infestation if not taken seriously can pose major health concerns to the communities and poultry farms.
Poultry health may face serious risks, however keeping the birds healthy from birth can ensure that the bird’s immune system is strong enough to fight against and prevent many diseases. Colonization of the intestinal tract of poultry with beneficial and natural probiotics can improve the overall health. They can also competitively exclude pathogens from gaining attachment sites and prevent their colonization and proliferation in the gut of poultry birds.