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K-State studies focus on COVID-19 transmission in cats, pigs

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Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 12:16 PM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Two studies at Kansas State University are focusing on the transmission of COVID-19 in cats and pigs.

Kansas State University says two recently published studies have led to two important findings related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It said domestic cats can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, but pigs are unlikely to be significant carriers at all.

“Other research has shown that COVID-19-infected human patients are transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to cats; this includes domestic cats and even large cats, such as lions and tigers,” said Jürgen A. Richt, the Regents distinguished professor at Kansas State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our findings are important because of the close association between humans and companion animals.”

According to K-State, there are about 95 million house cats in the U.S. alone, and about 60 million to 100 million feral cats.

K-State said Richt is the senior author of the two recent collaborative studies in the journal of Emerging Microbes and Infections: “SARS-CoV-2 infection, disease and transmission in domestic cats” and “Susceptibility of swine cells and domestic pigs to SARS-CoV-2.”

According to the university, through their in-depth study at the K-State Biosecurity Research Institute at Pat Roberts Hall, the researchers studied susceptibility to infection, disease and transmission in domestic cats. It said they found that domestic cats may not have obvious clinical signs of Sars-CoV-2, but they still shed the virus through their nasal, oral and rectal cavities and can spread it efficiently to other cats within two days. It said further research is needed to study if domestic cats can spread the virus to other animals and humans.

“This efficient transmission between domestic cats indicates a significant animal and public health need to investigate a potential human-cat-human transmission chain,” said Richt, director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

K-State said for the study involving pigs, the researchers found that COVID-19 infected pigs are not susceptible to infection and do not appear to transmit the virus to contact animals.

“Pigs play an important role in U.S. agriculture, which made it important to determine the potential SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility in pigs,” Richt said. “Our results show that pigs are unlikely to be significant carriers of SARS-CoV-2.”

According to K-State, the BRI has provided high-security laboratories for Richt and his colleagues to study SARS-CoV-2 transmission in cats and pigs. It said they also plan to study whether cats are immune to reinfection after they have recovered from primary COVID-19 infection.

“This research is important for risk assessment, implementing mitigation strategies, addressing animal welfare issues, and to develop preclinical animal models for evaluating drug and vaccine candidates for COVID-19,” Richt said.

The university said the research involved other K-State researchers from the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine: Natasha N. Gaudreault, Jessie D. Trujillo, David A. Meekins, Igor Morozov, Daniel W. Madden, Sabarish V. Indran, Dashzeveg Bold, Velmurugan Balaraman, Taeyong Kwon, Bianca L. Artiaga, Konner Cool, Wenjun Ma and Jamie Henningson, as well as the director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

K-State said other researchers involved include Mariano Carossino and Udeni B. R. Balasuriya from Louisiana State University; William C. Wilson with the U.S, Department of Agriculture’s Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit; Adolfo García-Sastre with Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Heinz Feldmann with the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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