Cats and ferrets sensitive to SARS-CoV-2

Researchers say infecting dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks is unlikely.

Shawna Williams
2.4.2020
Original article: The Scientist

Both cats and ferrets can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and can spread the infection to other members of the same species. Preliminary study published on 31.3.2020 shows that ferrets can be a suitable laboratory model for studying the disease (scientists they actually use ferrets in its SARS-CoV-2 studies), but experts say it does not reveal whether pets can transmit the infection to humans.

In a study that was not peer reviewed, the researchers inserted virus particles into the noses of a small number of cats. Four days later, they killed several animals and tested the organs for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material. They found viral RNA in cat noses, soft climates and tonsils, but not in the lungs. Other infected animals were housed in cages near uninfected animals. The researchers later found viral RNA in one of three cats located near the infected cat.

A team led by Zhigao Bu of the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (China) also performed tests on ferrets, dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks and found viral RNA in ferrets after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus. Two of the five exposed dogs had viral RNA present in the rectal swab but not the oronasal swab after two days, while none of the pigs or poultry tested had viral RNA confirmed.

Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham in the UK, told for The Guardianthat cats have similarly been found to be susceptible to infection by the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003 and is related to SARS-CoV-2. "But we should keep in mind that cats do not play a big role in the spread of this virus, if any at all," he said. "Human-to-human transmission is clearly the main mode of spread, so there is no need to panic about cats as a major source of infection. Of course, if you think you have a Covid-19 and you share a household with a cat, then it would be wise to limit close contact with your furry friend until you are better off. "

Virologist Linda Saif of Ohio State University interviewed by Nature stated that none of the infected cats showed signs of disease and that only one in three cats housed near the infected cats had been infected with the virus. "This suggests that the virus may not be highly transmissible in cats," he says.

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