More cats may be Covid positive after study finds 15% of pets in Wuhan 'caught virus from humans'
MORE cats could have coronavirus than previously thought – as a Chinese study found that 15% of felines in Wuhan may have caught the bug from humans.
It comes as scientists continue to probe the risk posed to pets by the virus.
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Blood samples were taken from over 100 cats between January and March in the central Chinese city, which revealed that they likely caught the disease from humans.
Researchers from Huazhong Agricultural University compared blood samples from 102 cats after the outbreak with 39 prior to the emergence of the disease.
46 of the cats tested came from three animal shelters, 41 were from five pet hospitals and 15 were from a household where at least one member of the family was known to have coronavirus.
Of the 102 who had blood taken, coronavirus antibodies were detected in 14.7 per cent of cats while 10.8 per cent had SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies.
The study also revealed that the three cats with the most antibodies were owned by a human who had contracted the disease.
None of the cats tested showed symptoms of the virus.
However, it is worth noting that the scientific paper is observational – and cannot conclusively prove that cats are able to infect humans or vice-versa.
A pet cat fell ill with coronavirus in July, marking the first confirmed case of the disease in an animal in the UK.
The feline was diagnosed with the infection after its owners also tested positive for the deadly bug.
But experts have said that it is unlikely that the disease can be spread to humans from cats.
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Health Director at Public Health England, said: "At this time, there is no evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans."
The World Organisation for Animal Health have also said that more studies are being carried out to gauge "the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species".
The organisation stressed, however, that, "currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19."
And there is currently no evidence that animals can transmit coronavirus to humans, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Chinese study also found that the coronavirus can transmit between cats via respiratory droplets.
But the researchers added that more studies were needed to uncover whether this is the mechanism that spreads the virus between species.
Nonetheless, lead author Meilin Jin encouraged pet owners to be vigilant to avoid spreading it to their furry friends.
She said: "Measures should be considered to maintain a suitable distance between COVID-19 patients and companion animals such as cats and dogs, and hygiene and quarantine measures should also be established for those high-risk animals."
The antibodies found in the cats were not particularly strong, and left them at risk of reinfection in future.
However, the researchers added that studying the virus in cats was useful as a means of understanding the human response to the infection.
They wrote in journal ‘Emerging Microbes & Infections’: “We suggest that cats have a great potential as an animal model for assessing the characteristic of antibody against SARS-CoV-2 in humans.”
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