Latvian researchers study coronavirus spread in cats

Researchers from the Latvian University of Life Sciences and Technology (LLU) have been testing cats in households and shelters, and discovered a number of Covid-19 cases, Latvian Television reported August 25.

The study started already in winter, when LSM also reported on it. The scientists have tested nearly 300 cats in households and shelters, and found Covid-19 in three cats and antibodies in seven more. The virus detected is the same as in humans. The study was originally conducted because there were fears that the virus could spread among cats as actively as among mink.

“Cats have the same virus that is circulating in the human population. There was no such widespread circulation in cats. These were individual cases, perhaps the individual genetic factors of cats should be looked at there,” said Professor Kaspars Kovaļenko, dean of the LLU Veterinary Medicine School.

Cats have also been tested in shelters. Outbreaks were not detected there, so the researchers believe that the virus, at least for the time being, is passed on to the cat by a human and that the animal does not pass it on. But given that virus can mutate, it is possible that its properties could change.

“Those studies should continue to make us understand epidemiology in animals. If we really wanted to understand what was going on in the animal population, [we should test] not just cats, dogs. We should test domestic pigs, for example,” Kovaļenko added.

The professor also said that the study had already been completed in February and that its results are now being published. It is possible that the type of Covid-19 virus delta, which is now the most common in Latvia, spreads differently among animals.

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