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Human-to-cat COVID transmission found

·2-min read

Two cases of human-to-cat transmission of COVID-19 have been identified by British researchers.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow found the cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission as part of a screening program of the feline population in the UK.

The cats, of different breeds, were living in separate households and displayed mild to severe respiratory signs.

Researchers believe both pets were infected by their owners, who had COVID-19 symptoms before the cats became unwell.

The study, published in the Veterinary Record, said there is no evidence of cat-to-human transmission or that cats, dogs or other domestic animals play any appreciable role in the epidemiology of human COVID infections.

But the scientists said domestic animals could potentially act as a "viral reservoir" allowing continued transmission, and said it is important to improve understanding of whether pets can play a role in infecting humans.

Professor Margaret Hosie, from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and lead author of the study, said: "These two cases of human-to-animal transmission, found in the feline population in the UK, demonstrate why it is important that we improve our understanding of animal SARS-CoV-2 infection.

"Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high.

"However as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans."

Researchers at the centre worked in partnership with the Veterinary Diagnostic Service at the university's school of veterinary medicine on the study.

The first cat was a four-month-old female ragdoll kitten from a household in which the owner developed symptoms that were consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection at the end of March 2020, although they were not tested.

The second cat was a six-year-old female Siamese from a household where one owner tested positive for COVID-19.

The cat was taken to the vet with nasal discharge and conjunctivitis, but its symptoms remained mild and the cat later recovered.