There may be more cats infected with COVID-19 than previously thought

COVID-19 antibodies are present in 15 blood samples taken from cats. Of these, 11 cats had neutralizing antibodies

- proteins that bind so successfully to the virus that they block infection.

None of the cats tested positive for COVID-19 and showed no obvious symptoms, and according to the results of return visits, none of these cats died.

The studied sample of cats included 46 abandoned cats from 3 animal shelters, 41 from 5 pet catteries and 15 cats from families of patients with COVID-19.

All three cats with the highest antibody levelsbelonged to patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19, and there were also indications that cats were infected with the virus from other cats that were abandoned or lived in pet hospitals.

Commenting on the findings, the study's lead author Meiling Jin states that while there is currently no evidence of cat-to-human transmission of the virus, precautions should be taken.

Although it is impossible to fully understand the infectionstray cats, it is reasonable to assume that these infections are likely caused by contact with an environment contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, or by COVID-19 patients who have fed the cats. "Therefore, measures should be considered to maintain a suitable distance between COVID-19 patients and pets such as cats and dogs, and hygiene and quarantine measures should be established for these high-risk animals."

Meiling Jin

The team evaluated in great detail the type of antibody response and was able to describe the dynamic characteristics of the detected antibodies.

Among the many discoveries regarding antibodies, theysaw that the type of reaction produced by cats is similar to those seen with seasonal coronavirus infections, which means that cats who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection "remain at risk of reinfection."

The authors state that this is a similar transientan antibody response that is also observed in humans, and that their study should be used in the future as a "reference material for the clinical treatment and prevention of COVID-19."

“We suggest that cats have great potential as an animal model for evaluating the performance of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in humans,” they add.

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