Cats and dogs susceptible to COVID-19 infection, study finds
Domestic cats and dogs are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). While both types of animals showed an immune response to the virus, only cats demonstrated viral shedding, and neither animal model showed evidence for a significant role in human infection, the study found.
In the first published study involving cat experimental infections, researchers inoculated dogs and cats with SARS-CoV-2 and monitored for symptoms, viral shedding, seroconversion (production of antibodies against the virus in the blood), pathology, and transmission. Both dogs and cats showed an immune response in the form of neutralizing antibodies.
Infected dogs and cats did not develop signs of clinical disease, and the study confirmed earlier publications showing that dogs do not replicate the virus in the upper respiratory tract. But cats were highly susceptible to infection and capable of shedding virus for up to 5 days after initial infection.
Cats were also capable of direct transmission to other cats, potentially via aerosols, and mounted an immune response that was protective against reinfection after a second viral challenge. "This is the first report of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in cats following repeated exposure," study authors note.
The study authors wrote, "While animals, including domestic animals and pets, are frequently implicated as the source of emerging pathogens, reverse zoonosis [transmission from people to animals] of SARS-CoV-2 is more probable, as human cases are far more prevalent than domestic animals and there is no evidence to date of infected cats or dogs transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to humans."
Cat and human cells, unlike those of mice or rats, contain angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) cell receptors, which are implicated in SARS-CoV-2 infection. The presence of feline ACE2 receptors, a robust antibody response, and protective immunity to SAR-CoV-2 reinfection lead the study authors to conclude that domestic cats may be a useful animal model for COVID research.
Sep 29 PNAS study
Ebola infects 1 more in DRC as WHO probes sexual abuse reports
In new Ebola developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), tests confirmed one more case in the Equateur province outbreak and a media investigation says 51 women have reported incidents of sexual abuse by Ebola response workers in the country over the past 2 years.
The new case is the first reported since Sep 19 and involves a patient whose samples were collected at that time, but delivery of samples was delayed due to communications problems. The patient is from Lusengo health zone, marking the first case detected in that area. The infection raises the outbreak total to 125 cases. No new deaths were reported, keeping the total at 50.
Meanwhile, a joint investigation by The New Humanitarian and Reuters published yesterday, based on interviews with 51 women, detailed reports of abuse by men who said they were working for international aid organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), from 2018 to 2020. Many of the women described a pattern of men propositioning or forcing them to have sex in exchange for jobs, which typically paid twice the region's normal wage. Others said they were terminated from their jobs when they refused.
In a statement, the WHO said its leadership and staff are outraged by the reports, and they said the actions of perpetrators who said they were working with the WHO are unacceptable and will be aggressively investigated.
"The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners," the statement said. "Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal." Other aid groups issued similar statements, such as the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), which said there was a serious allegation against one of its workers.
Sep 30 UN OCHA update
Sep 29 New Humanitarian/Reuters story
Sep 29 WHO statement
Sep 30 IOM statement