London: Researchers have now documented human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, that occurred during the pandemic in the UK, with the infected cats displaying mild or severe respiratory disease.
The research provides fresh evidence that people have transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to cats during the pandemic in the UK.
The study, which is published in Veterinary Record, detected the virus last year in cats that developed mild or severe respiratory disease.
Investigators used a range of laboratory techniques to show that two domestic cats from households with suspected cases of Covid-19 were infected with SARS-CoV-2.
“Given the ability of the coronavirus to infect companion animals, it will be important to monitor for human-to-cat, cat-to-cat and cat-to-human transmission,” said lead author Margaret Hosie of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research.
A recent study, published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, found that humans, followed by ferrets and to a lesser extent, cats, civets, and dogs, are the most susceptible animals to SARS-CoV-2.
“Knowing which animals are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 helps us prevent building up animal reservoirs from which the coronavirus can re-emerge at a later date,” said study author Luis Serrano from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Spain.
In the first case involving a pet, a kitten was tested positive for the Covid-19 in South Korea in January this year, at a religious facility in the southeastern city of Jinju in South Gyeongsang Province.
Health authorities suspect the cat got the virus from the mother and daughter, who have both tested positive for Covid-19.
The cases of pets getting the infectious virus through their owners have been reported in places like Japan, Hong Kong and Brazil.
Posts on social media show long lines of people queuing, and authorities have reportedly urged people to wear masks, stand one metre apart and avoid talking while they wait.
Officials said the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus was behind the infections, adding that cases had spread further because of how busy the airport is.
Ding Jie, a health official in Nanjing, told reporters the cases were linked to cleaners who worked on a flight from Russia that arrived in the city on 10 July.
The cleaners did not follow strict hygiene measures, Xinhua News reported.
The airport management has been rebuked, with a senior disciplinary body of the Communist Party saying it had “problems such as lack of supervision and unprofessional management”.
Testing has shown that the virus has now spread to at least 13 cities including Chengdu and the capital Beijing.
However, experts quoted by the Global Times said they believed the outbreak was still at an early stage and could be controlled.
Local officials in Nanjing said that seven of those infected were in critical condition.
The new spike in cases has led some on Chinese social media to speculate about whether the Chinese vaccines were working against the Delta variant.
It is unclear if those infected were vaccinated.