Detection of SARS‐CoV‐2 in respiratory samples from cats in the UK associated with human‐to‐cat transmission

Hosie, Margaret J., Epifano, Ilaria, Herder, Vanessa, Orton, Richard J., Stevenson, Andrew, Johnson, Natasha, MacDonald, Emma, Dunbar, Dawn, McDonald, Michael, Howie, Fiona, Tennant, Bryn, Herrity, Darcy, Da Silva Filipe, Ana, Streicker, Daniel G., Willett, Brian J., Murcia, Pablo R., Jarrett, Ruth F., Robertson, David L., Weir, William, Bashton, Matthew, Nelson, Andrew, Smith, Darren, Young, Greg and The COVID‐19 Genomics UK (COG‐UK) consortium, (2021) Detection of SARS‐CoV‐2 in respiratory samples from cats in the UK associated with human‐to‐cat transmission. Veterinary Record, 188 (8). e247. ISSN 0042-4900

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Objectives: The aim of the study was to find evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK cats.

Design: Tissue samples were tested for SARS-CoV-2 antigen using immunofluorescence and for viral RNA by in situ hybridisation. A set of 387 oropharyngeal swabs that had been submitted for routine respiratory pathogen testing was tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA using reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR.

Results: Lung tissue collected post-mortem from cat 1 tested positive for both SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid antigen and RNA. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in an oropharyngeal swab collected from cat 2 that presented with rhinitis and conjunctivitis. High throughput sequencing of the viral genome revealed five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) compared to the nearest UK human SARS-CoV-2 sequence, and this human virus contained eight SNPs compared to the original Wuhan-Hu-1 reference sequence. An analysis of the viral genome of cat 2 together with nine other feline-derived SARS-CoV-2 sequences from around the world revealed no shared cat-specific mutations.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, with the infected cats developing mild or severe respiratory disease. Given the ability of the new coronavirus to infect different species, it will be important to monitor for human-to-cat, cat-to-cat and cat-to-human transmission.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This study was supported by an award to Margaret J. Hosie, Brian J. Willett, Ruth F. Jarrett, Pablo R. Murcia and William Weir from the Wellcome ISSF COVID Response Fund. Authors are supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) of the United Kingdom: MC_UU_12014/9 (PRM), MC_UU_12014/9 (RJO and DLR), MC_UU_12018/12 (ADF). Ilaria Epifano is funded by the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) funding scheme, project code TCS/19/11. Daniel G. Streicker is funded by a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship (217221/Z/19/Z). Vanessa Herder is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungs‐gemeinschaft), project number: 406109949. SRUC is supported by the Scottish Government. We gratefully acknowledge Lynn Oxford, Frazer Bell and Lynn Stevenson for technical assistance, the members of the COG‐UK consortium for sharing genome data and tools and all authors who have deposited and shared genome data on GISAID. Matthew Bashton, Andrew Nelson, Darren Smith, Greg Young are members of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium.
Subjects: C700 Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Biochemistry
D200 Clinical Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Applied Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2021 11:56
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 11:00

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