New York: New research has found that cats can play a role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19, and that their contaminated environment can be infectious.
Researchers from the Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands conducted a study of 16 cats that were either directly exposed to SARS-CoV-2 virus obtained from a naturally-infected human patient, exposed indirectly from the directly exposed cat or exposed from the pen in which the infected cat was housed.
Cats were sampled for 3 weeks, starting on the day of direct exposure to the virus. Nasal samples and oropharyngeal samples were taken 3 times during this period. Oral and rectal samples were taken 15 times during this period. Transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 between cats, through both direct and indirect contact, were evaluated.
The results published in Microbiology Spectrum, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, showed that cats are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and infected cats can spread the virus to other cats and into their environment. They found that the contaminated environment can be infectious, but this infectiousness decays rapidly.
"SARS-CoV-2 transmission between cats is efficient and can be sustained," van der Poel said. "Infections of cats via exposure to a SARS-CoV-2-contaminated environment cannot be discounted if cats are exposed shortly after contamination." The mean duration of infectiousness was a little more than 1/3 of a day. The duration of infectiousness was calculated from the periods that virus was detected in excreta (oral/nasal fluid or faeces).
"We must assume that cat owners can be infected by SARS-CoV-2 infected cats since these cats excrete infectious virus," van der Poel said. "In practice, after the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 in our household, we should see our cat as part of the family regarding virus transmission," he added.
In June 2022, researchers from the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand documented the first-ever case of a suspected cat-to-human transmission.
A 32-year-old previously healthy female veterinarian contracted Covid after being sneezed on by a cat owned by an infected patient in August 2021. Genetic study supported the hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from the owner to the cat, and then from the cat to the veterinarian, they wrote in the paper published in the paper published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.
While domestic pets are known to contract Covid-19, UK scientists in 2021 first reported infection from the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant in cats and dogs. The study, published in the Veterinary Record journal, described that two cats and one dog were positive on PCR test, while two additional cats and one dog displayed antibodies two to six weeks after they developed signs of cardiac disease.