US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — A study by scientists at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute showed that cats are susceptible to COVID-19 and can infect each other, while it has not yet been determined whether they can infect humans, according to a preprint published on bioRxiv’s website.
“Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the infectious disease COVID-19, first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. Despite huge efforts to combat this disease, COVID-19 is currently has spread to over 100 countries and triggered a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originated in bats, but no intermediate animal sources of the virus are known,” the document says.
It is noted that a group of scientists “investigated the susceptibility of ferrets and animals in close contact with humans to SARS-CoV-2.”
“We found that SARS-CoV-2 is poorly replicated in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, but is effective in ferrets and cats. We also found that the virus in cats is transmitted by airborne droplets,” the study said.
At the same time, other scientists, whose opinion was published by the journal Nature, say that the results of research by Chinese experts are quite curious, but they advise cat owners not to worry.
“The results are based on laboratory experiments in which a small number of animals were intentionally injected with high doses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and they do not reflect the conditions of real interaction between people and their pets,” said the famous virologist Linda Saif from Ohio State University.
According to her, there is no direct evidence that infected cats can secrete enough coronavirus pathogen to infect humans.
A team led by virologist Boo Zhigao introduced SARS-CoV-2 virus samples into the nose of five domestic cats. When two cats were euthanized six days later, the researchers discovered viral RNA, as well as virus particles in the upper respiratory tract.
The remaining three infected cats were placed in cages next to three uninfected cats, one of which was later found to have viral RNA, which allowed scientists to assume that she was infected with the virus by airborne droplets from infected cats. It is also reported that all four infected cats developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
At the same time, as Saif noted, commenting on the study, none of the infected cats had symptoms of the disease, and only one healthy cat out of three was infected, being next to the infected ones. According to her, this indicates that the level of transmission of the virus between cats is not particularly high.
She noted that more research is needed in this area, including those in which cats are given different “doses” of the virus to find out if they can pass it on to other cats.
Scientists also managed to establish that ferrets, which, according to experts, make these animals suitable for testing potential vaccines and drugs, are extremely susceptible to infection with COVID-19 coronavirus.
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