COVID-19 Could Strike Extra Cats Than Believed

FRIDAY, September 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Cat lovers should be aware: New research suggests that COVID-19 is more common in cats than previously thought.

Scientists analyzed blood samples from 102 cats between January and March 2020 in Wuhan, China, after the world’s first known COVID-19 outbreak began in that city.

Fifteen of the cats had COVID-19 antibodies in their blood, and eleven of those cats had neutralizing antibodies that bind to the coronavirus and block the infection.

None of the cats tested positive for COVID-19 or had any obvious symptoms, and none of them died during the follow-up visit, according to the study published online September 1 in the journal Emerging Microbes & Infections.

The cats in the study included 46 from three animal shelters, 41 from five veterinary clinics, and 15 from families with COVID-19 patients.

The highest levels of antibody were seen in three cats belonging to patients diagnosed with COVID-19, but there was also evidence that cats were infected with the virus from other cats from shelters or veterinary clinics.

While there is currently no evidence of human-cat transmission of the new coronavirus, people should take precautions, said study author Meilin Jin of Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan.

“Although the infection in stray cats could not be fully understood, it is reasonable to speculate that these infections are likely due to exposure to SARS-CoV-2 polluted environments or COVID-19 patients who have fed the cats” Jin told a Journal press release.

“Therefore, measures should be considered to maintain an appropriate distance between COVID-19 patients and pets such as cats and dogs, and sanitation and quarantine measures should also be established for these high-risk animals,” noted Jin.

One of the findings was that the antibody response in cats infected with the new coronavirus was similar to seasonal coronavirus infections, suggesting that cats infected with the new coronavirus remain at risk of re-infection are. “according to the researchers.

This antibody response is similar to that seen in humans.

“We propose that cats have great potential as animal models for assessing the properties of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in humans,” concluded the study’s authors.