Coronavirus can infect cats – not so many
However, scientists say it is not clear if cats can transmit the virus to humans, so pet owners should not panic.
Animals can affected by coronavirus: Researchers in China say that cats can be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and spread it to other cats, but dogs are not really susceptible to infection. The research team of the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute also concluded that chickens, pigs and ducks are unlikely to be infected by the virus.
Other scientists say this result is very interesting, but cat owners should not panic. The virologist explained that the results are based on laboratory experiments in which a large dose of SARS-CoV-2 was deliberately administered to a small number of animals, which does not represent an actual interaction between humans and pets. Linda Saif of Wooster, Ohio State University. She said there is no direct evidence that infected cats secrete enough coronavirus to transmit it to humans.
With the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, some people doubt whether it can spread between pets and humans. So far, infected pets have been reported: a cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong. The author of the latest study wrote: “Dogs and cats are in close contact with people, so understanding their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 is essential to control COVID-19.” BioRxiv has not yet been peer-reviewed on March 31.
A research team led by virologist Bu Zhigao injected five samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the noses of five domestic cats. After euthanizing two animals six days later, the researchers found viral RNA and infectious virus particles in their upper respiratory tract.
The other three infected cats were kept in cages with the uninfected cats. The research team subsequently detected viral RNA in one of the exposed cats, indicating that he had contracted the virus from the droplets exhaled by the infected cat. Four infected cats also developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The author pointed out in the preprint that the monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in cats should be considered as part of the work to eliminate COVID-19 in humans.
But Saif said that none of the infected cats showed symptoms of the disease, and only one of the three cats exposed to the infected animal was infected with the virus. He said: “This indicates that the virus may not be highly spread in cats.” In addition, the mode of transmission is not clear, because the study did not describe how the cages are set up. Uninfected cats may get from contaminated feces or urine. Infected with a virus.
He said more tests are needed, including testing cats with different doses of the virus to see if they can spread it to other cats.
Dirk Pfeiffer, an epidemiologist at the City University of Hong Kong, said the results of the study show that cats should be considered in efforts to control COVID-19, but they are not a major factor in the spread of the disease. “Therefore, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has to be firmly controlled to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission.
Previous research on SARS-CoV (coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)) has shown that cats may be infected and spread to other cats. But Saifu said: “But during the SARS pandemic, there is no indication that the SARS coronavirus has spread to domestic cats or from cats to humans.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with COVID-19 should limit contact with pets and avoid petting, licking, and sharing food.
Saif said: “This is a preventative measure and will be recommended for any emerging diseases for which information is limited.”
The authors of the latest preprint also found that ferrets are very susceptible to the COVID-19 coronavirus, which suggests that this makes animals a suitable model for testing potential vaccines and drugs. Ferrets have been used as models for influenza research, and some laboratories have begun to study COVID-19 there.
However, dogs are less sensitive to this virus. Researchers vaccinated five puppies with SARS-CoV-2 and found that two viral RNAs were excreted in their feces, but none of them contained infectious virus.
Similar studies conducted in pigs, chickens and ducks have not identified viral RNA in animals deliberately vaccinated with viruses or animals exposed to vaccinated animals.
These results indicate that none of these species play a role in the epidemiology of COVID-19, Pfeiffer said.