Rats in inner-city neighborhoods carry a form of the virus implicated in the mysterious flu-like disease that has killed at least 14 people in the Southwest.
Researchers from three prestigious institutions have been studying the inner-city virus, one of a family of microbes known as hantaviruses.
They identified the virus in brown rats, which have been thriving in inner cities in recent years because of cutbacks in federal rat-control programs. Brown rats also are known as sewer rats, barn rats or river rats.
In their latest research, the scientists have established a link between infection with the virus and kidney disease in humans, which causes some cases of high blood pressure.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said the findings emphasize the importance of urban rodent control programs.
The findings were published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
CDC experts have implicated hantavirus in the deadly flu-like illness reported since May in the Four Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.