Infectious Disease

New study shows SARS-CoV-2 transmission from humans to cats

April 23, 2021

2 min read

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Disclosure:
Hosie reports that he has received award funding from the Wellcome ISSF COVID Response Fund and the UK Medical Research Council. In the study you will find all relevant financial information from all other authors.

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Findings published in Vet Record showed that people in the UK transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to their cats, but researchers found no evidence of cat-specific mutations.

“There is currently no evidence of cat-to-human transmission or that cats, dogs or other pets play a significant role in the epidemiology of human SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said Margaret J. Hosie, BSc, BVM & S., PhD, MRCVS, Professor of Comparative Virology at the Center for Virus Research and Associate in the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Although the pandemic is currently being caused by human-to-human transmission, it is important to investigate whether pets are susceptible to disease or pose a risk to humans, especially those who are more prone to serious illnesses.”

Although COVID-19 is controlled by human-to-human transmission, researchers say it’s important to determine whether pets pose a risk.
Source: Shutterstock.

Hosie and colleagues examined two domestic cats. The first, a Ragdoll at the age of 4 months, whose owner had symptoms related to SARS-CoV-2 infection but was never tested for the virus, died of shortness of breath 1 week after seeing the vet. The researchers identified SARS-CoV-2 infection in the kitten by testing lung tissue samples taken post-mortem.

The second was a female Siamese cat aged 6 who presented to the vet with bilateral yellow eye discharge and serous nasal discharge, according to the researchers. One of the cat’s owners had symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 when the cat was presented to the vet. The researchers confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in the second cat using conjunctival and oropharyngeal swabs.

The Siamese cat also tested positive for feline herpes virus, which the researchers said was consistent with the cat’s symptoms. Finding that it was possible that the symptoms were not related to the clinical symptoms displayed at the time of presentation, they wrote, “It is also possible that co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 caused reactivation of FHV in this cat . “

After analyzing the SARS-CoV-2 genome of the Siamese cat, the researchers found “no evidence of an adaptation of the cat sequences” and wrote that the genome “has a high degree of sequence conservation with genomes from infected humans”. Based on these findings, they wrote, “It is likely that all mutations in [the cat’s] The owner’s virus was also present in the owner’s virus, although the genomic sequence of the owner’s virus was not available for comparison. “

“Reverse zoonotic transmission poses a relatively low risk to animal or public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high,” the researchers concluded. “However, as human-to-human transmission decreases, the prospect of inter-animal transmission as a source of reintroduction in humans becomes increasingly important. It is therefore important to improve our understanding of whether exposed animals could play a role in transmission. “

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