A study published on Wednesday revealed cats could be infected with COVID-19. The information prompted the WHO to say it would look closer into the possibility of humans to pets transmission.
The research, published on the website of the journal Science, showed ferrets could also become infected with SARS-CoV-2, but dogs appear not to be vulnerable.
The scientists, however, found that other animals such as dogs, chickens, pigs, and ducks are not likely to catch the virus.
The study aimed to identify the animals that could acquire the virus so they could be used for testing experimental vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has nearly infected 1.5 million and killed about 83,000 people across the globe since it emerged from Wuhan, China, last December 2019.
COVID-19 is believed to have spread from bats to humans. There has not been strong evidence that pets could be virus carriers except for few reports of infected cats and dogs.
For instance, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City experienced dry cough and loss of appetite. It later tested positive of the virus after being exposed to an infected zookeeper on Sunday.
Cats can catch COVID-19, study finds
The research, based on a study conducted in China in January and February, said that researchers found cats and ferrets highly susceptible to the virus when they attempted to infect the animals by introducing viral particles via the nose.
They also discovered cats could infect each other via respiratory droplets like a human to human transmission. Cats with COVID-19 had the virus in the mouth, nose, and small intestine. Kittens exposed to the virus had massive lesions in their lungs, nose, and throat.
“Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in cats should be considered as an adjunct to elimination of COVID-19 in humans,” the authors wrote.
The study also revealed the virus was found in the upper respiratory tract of ferrets did not cause severe complications.
Meanwhile, antibody tests showed dogs were less likely to catch the virus, while inoculated pigs, chickens, and ducks were not found to have any strain of the pandemic coronavirus.
Based on the evidence so far, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told a news conference: “We don’t believe that they are playing a role in transmission, but we think that they may be able to be infected from an infected person.”