Are animals vulnerable to COVID-19?
Though there is no evidence that pets, livestock, or their owners can infect each other with COVID-19 so far, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) explains if animals are vulnerable to COVID-19 as there is also very little research about a potential crossover of the virus.
The researcher, Scott Kenney studies coronavirus, including those that cross over from one species to another, said that ” Viruses are constantly trying to find other hosts and are sampling and evolving. Research has not yet shown that if the virus can jump back to animals from humans as the novel coronavirus started with an animal and then mutated to transfer to people.”
Believed to have originated in bats, COVID-19 has altered its surface proteins to be able to transfer from person to person efficiently, and in this way, the bat virus changed. The COVID-19 is now less likely to affect the original bats because these surface proteins are different in the mutated bat virus. It is yet to be tested if the other animals are susceptible to the novel coronavirus.
Viruses produce a billion copies of themselves when they infect an animal. When compared to the original virus, some of the copies tend to be slightly changed. As stated by Kenny, though most of these irregular copies die, occasionally one has a change that is beneficial for the virus, such as altering its ability to infect a different species.
He said, “A whole new species can be potentially infected if the new species is exposed to this altered virus as it makes many more copies of itself.”
In China, two dogs had tested positive for COVID-19 and so far, this is the only research involving animals and COVID-19. However, there were no symptoms of the virus in neither of the infected dogs, and it is not believed by the researchers in those studies that they transmitted the disease is not transmitted to people or any other animals.
Kenney said, “A virus evolution sweet spot has been hit by the COVID-19. The spread of the infection is rapid as the infected people can either show few signs or get very sick.”
Among farm animals, it is common to find coronaviruses. He said that it is likely that pig would the animal on the farm to catch the virus if COVID-19 were to jump species again and be receptive to animals. Pigs having a similar protein to humans that the SARS virus could be the reason behind this. Pigs seem to be the most susceptible to coronavirus among farm animals. It could be because humans and pigs seem to be infected by the largest number of different coronaviruses other than bats.
To understand if this is due to something in pigs’ genetic makeup or physiology or because other than other animals, humans and pigs encounter coronaviruses more frequently, more studies are needed to determine the reason.
The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was one of the most devastating coronaviruses among livestock, and only pigs were affected by this.
Kenny said, “In many countries around the world, the virus continues to pop up and cause problems. It is important to be cautious in regard to animals getting infected because they do not have immunity to COVID-19. You should use good hygiene anytime you are around an animal. Besides coronaviruses, in animals, there are many illnesses that can be passed to humans and vice versa.”
Are animals vulnerable to COVID-19? – Source