Cats Are Better Than Dogs (At Catching Coronavirus)


In the spring of 2020, as the new coronavirus infiltrates the Twin Cities, Hinh Ly couldn’t help but think of cats and dogs.

A veterinary and biomedical researcher at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Ly knew that humans were the primary driver of the pandemic. But he also knew that many people love to kiss and hug their pets in sickness and in health. He wondered: How contagious was SARS-CoV-2 to humanity’s best friends?

In March 2020, Dr. Ly learned that two dogs in Hong Kong had received positive PCR tests for the virus. However, these tests require active replication of the virus and therefore only reveal active infections. Cleaning the nose of many pets, Dr. It made me think it was an extremely time-consuming way to understand how easily Ly can infect animals.

So he gave the idea to his wife, Yuying Liang, a researcher who runs the lab with him in the same department, to test cats and dogs for antibodies that would reveal past infection with the virus. “I had an idea, but he’s the boss,” said Dr. Ly.

The result of these antibody tests, recently published in the journal virulencesuggests that domestic cats are more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection than dogs.

Fortunately, infected cats seem to show mild symptoms most. A biomedical researcher at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. “I’m still a little surprised that cats can get infected so easily and rarely show any signs of illness,” said Angela Bosco-Lauth. Research.

A virologist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and researching how coronavirus affects animals, but not involved in the disease, Dr. Jonathan Runstadler said there is still no evidence that infected cats or dogs pose a risk to humans. new job.

The new study supports current research Dr. Runstadler said it can be “quite common” for cats and dogs to also become infected in homes where people have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

To test for pet antibodies, Minnesota researchers needed serum from animals with a blood component containing the antibodies. Dr. Ly, director of the clinical pathology lab at the university’s veterinary center, Dr. Daniel reached Heinrich. (Dr. Henrich is also one of the authors of the new study.) Ly said pets go through the center every day and have their blood tested for a myriad of reasons, including “annual checkups, unrelated illnesses, inappropriate urination on the wall.”

These samples are often discarded. However, Dr. Heinrich asked pet owners to allow the serum to be used anonymously in the study, and the researchers received their first handful of samples in April.

The researchers initially scanned about 100 samples and found that about 5 percent of cat serum contained coronavirus antibodies, whereas dog serum contained almost none. To be safe, Dr. Ly tested hundreds of more samples from blood collected in April, May and June as Covid cases rose in the region.

In the end, the scientists found that 8 percent of cats carried antibodies to the coronavirus, while less than 1 percent of dogs did, suggesting that cats were more susceptible to infection.

Because pet owners gave consent anonymously, researchers were unable to track which people may have infected various cats and dogs. Dr. It’s also unclear whether infected domestic cats live indoors or outdoors, or how much the virus is transmitted from cat to cat, Ly said.

Researchers do not know why cats are more susceptible than dogs. One possibility has to do with ACE2, a protein on the surface of cells that is a receptor for the coronavirus. The genetic sequence of the human ACE2 protein is much more similar to the equivalent sequence in cats than in dogs.

But animal behavior can also be a factor. A recent study presenting similar findings He pointed out that – cats are more easily infected with coronavirus than dogs – cats generally sleep more comfortably in beds than dogs. “Maybe it’s because we cuddle with cats more,” said Dr. Ly. “Maybe we’ll kiss cats more.”

Bosco-Lauth said he believes pets are “unlikely to contribute to the epidemiology of SARS-COV-2 in the long run.” But still, there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Dr. Ly advised people who test positive for Covid-19 to stay away from not only people, but also cats and dogs. “You can’t hug them,” he said.

Dr. Ly and Dr. Liang doesn’t have cats or dogs in their own home. They have a tank guppies that seems pretty safe from the coronavirus for now.


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