DOZENS of common animals may be vulnerable to Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19.
Sheep, squirrels, hamsters and 25 other mammals could be susceptible to infection by the deadly virus, scientists have warned.
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A total of 215 different animals were examined as part of the groundbreaking study.
Scientists already knew that dogs and cats are both at risk of infection.
But other household pets like guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits may also be vulnerable.
Farm and zoo animals are also at risk of being infected by the virus.
First, scientists investigated how the virus' spike protein interacts with the ACE2 protein it attaches to – as part of the infection process.
Animals have mutated versions of the ACE2 protein that make it different from our own.
Scientists examined whether these differences would reduce the stability of the bond between the virus protein and the host protein.
It's this binding process that gives the virus entry to your cells.
And it turns out that for some animals – including sheep and great apes – the proteins can bind together as strongly as in a human.
A total of 28 animals that are regularly in contact with humans were highlighted as part of the study.
However, it's important to note that this isn't proof that each animal can definitely be infected.
And there's no guarantee that transmission is possible in all cases either.
Animals potentially vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2
Here’s the list of 28 species identified as being vulnerable…
- Golden Hamster
- Chinese Hamster
- Guinea Pig
- Great Apes (Chimpanzee, Bonobo, Gorilla, Orangutan)
- Golden Snub-nosed Monkey
- Wild Yak
- Polar Bear
- Arabian Camel
- Domestic Yak
- Red Fox
- Cow hybrid Bos Indicus
"We wanted to look beyond just the animals that had been studied experimentally, to see which animals might be at risk of infection, and would warrant further investigation and possible monitoring," said lead author Professor Christine Orengo, of UCL, speaking to PA.
"The animals we identified may be at risk of outbreaks that could threaten endangered species or harm the livelihoods of farmers.
"The animals might also act as reservoirs of the virus, with the potential to re-infect humans later on, as has been documented on mink farms."
What to do if you have coronavirus and pets
Consider the following…
- Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary animal health measure until more information is known about the virus.
- If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
- Keep cats indoors if possible and try to get someone else to exercise dogs, to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease – but there is no evidence that pets play a role in the spread of the disease.
- If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice.
- If your pet requires emergency treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.
The study found that most birds, fish, and reptiles do not appear to be at risk of infection.
But the majority of the mammals they reviewed could potentially be infected.
Several animals have been reported with Covid-19 infections, including domestic cats, dogs, mink, lions and tigers.
And ferrets and macaques have been infected in laboratory studies.
This research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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