Can the COVID-19 spread from pet to person? (But no dog transmission was found)

2021/06/23

Genetic studies have shown that the owner will pass the new coronavirus to dogs, but there is no evidence that dogs can pass the virus to humans.

The first two dogs reported to be infected with the new crown virus may have been infected by their owners, said researchers who study pets and family members of infected families in Hong Kong. Analysis of the gene sequence of the dog virus showed that these sequences are consistent with those of infected humans. 


Genetic studies have shown that the owner will pass the new coronavirus to dogs, but there is no evidence that dogs can pass the virus to humans.

The first two dogs reported to be infected with the new crown virus may have been infected by their owners, said researchers who study pets and family members of infected families in Hong Kong. Analysis of the gene sequence of the dog virus showed that these sequences are consistent with those of infected humans. 

The researchers suspect that the virus was passed from the owner to the dog, and direct genome associations strongly support this, said Malik Peiris, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong who led the study. This paper was published in "Nature". 

A Pomeranian in Hong Kong is one of the first dogs to test positive for the new coronavirus. 


Although this analysis confirms that humans infected with COVID-19 can pass the virus to dogs, the probability of such an event is very low, said Arjan Stegeman, a veterinary epidemiologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In this study, 15 dogs lived with human infected persons, and only 2 dogs became infected. 

However, other scientists said that whether the new coronavirus can be transmitted between pets and whether they can be transmitted to humans requires proper research to prepare for future epidemic prevention and control.

Be vigilant

After a Pomeranian and a German Shepherd were reported to be infected with the virus in Hong Kong, other pets also tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including a cat in Hong Kong and two cats in New York State. Four tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York City also tested positive. Research on cats has found that cats can transmit the new coronavirus to other cats without symptoms.

The Hong Kong team’s research detected viral RNA and antibodies in both dogs, and a live virus in one of them. The symptoms of both dogs were not severe.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that people infected with COVID-19 wear masks when caring for their pets. Infected people should also avoid petting, hugging or sharing food with pets, and wash their hands before and after contact.

The role of animals in the spread of the new coronavirus.

Kansas State University veterinary virologist Jürgen Richt said that in addition to protecting pets from virus infection, we also need to test more animals in close contact with humans as soon as possible, including labor animals and livestock, in order to understand their role in the spread of the virus. To this end, a special test kit for animals is needed. 

Richt also hopes to investigate whether pets will experience illness or specific symptoms. A common symptom of COVID-19 in humans is loss of smell. If dogs have similar symptoms, Richt believes that this may affect the performance of some police dogs, preventing them from sniffing out drugs, explosives and other contraband. 

Stegeman plans to test cats living with people infected with COVID-19. He said that as the interpersonal transmission rate continues to decline, it is very important to understand the position of domestic cats and stray cats in the transmission chain.

Peiris said that although the Hong Kong team’s study did not find evidence of dog-to-human transmission while trying to understand how the virus was initially transmitted to humans, it is necessary to consider the possible role of dogs and cats in the transmission chain. Researchers believe that SARS-CoV-2 may be derived from bats and passed to humans through an intermediate host, but this intermediate host is still unclear.

The current mainstream view is that the intermediate host came into contact with humans in a seafood market in Wuhan. Such markets sell dogs, cats and other mammals, and there are stray cats and dogs walking around freely, Peiris said. "The host range of the new coronavirus seems to be quite extensive. Dogs, cats and other close relatives of mammals are all questionable. They build a bridge between bats and humans," he said.

However, researchers are also concerned that reports of infections in cats and dogs may cause owners to abandon their pets. Earlier news reports stated that some people abandon their pets during the outbreak in Wuhan. "The danger we face is that people are afraid after hearing that their pets may carry the virus, and then decide to discard them." Richt said. 



Original author: Smriti Mallapaty


references:


1. Sit, T. H. C. et al. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2334-5 (2020).


The original article was published in the News section of Nature on May 14, 2020 with the title Dogs caught coronavirus from their owners, genetic analysis suggests.


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