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Studies urgently needed on the impacts of COVID-19 in animals

Studies urgently needed on the impacts of COVID-19 in animals. In a new paper published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, experts are describing the urgent need for research to understand the potential impacts of COVID-19 in animals. Cases of COVID-19 have already been confirmed in dogs, cats, lions, and tigers. 

“We are now faced with many urgent questions that can only be answered through investigative studies and surveillance,” wrote the researchers. 

The experts not only want answers to the questions of what animal species can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but also want to know if the infection can be further transmitted, what tests are currently available, and how COVID-19 is expressed among animals. 

In addition, the researchers are calling for information on the impact that COVID-19 infection could have on food security and the economy.

The study authors explained that reliable data are needed on the SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility of cattle, chickens, and other types of livestock and poultry – along with the potential for human transmission – to guide public health decisions by policy makers. 

“The susceptibility of livestock and poultry that could act as virus reservoirs, might serve as animal models for COVID-19, or are possibly in close contact with infected humans, is still understudied,” wrote the study authors. 

The paper also focuses on the implications of COVID-19 infection for working dogs.

“The U.S. government spends millions of dollars to train bomb-sniffing dogs essential to federal and local law enforcement capabilities,” wrote the study authors. “Dogs serve many roles in the military and as multipurpose canines as already mentioned. A fully trained bomb detection canine is likely worth over $150,000.” 

“What happens if working dogs lose their sense of smell? Unfortunately, the only susceptibility study published on dogs did not include histopathologic evaluation or immunohistochemical staining of the nasal passages in the experimentally SARS-CoV-2-infected dogs that were necropsied, so this remains an important but unanswered question.”

The researchers said that if infected dogs lost their sense of smell it could have a devastating impact on U.S. national security. 

“In contrast, if an effect of SARS-CoV-2 on smell is conclusively ruled out, perhaps dogs can be trained to detect people with COVID-19 and enhance surveillance for the disease. Either way, there is a critical need for studies to investigate this issue.”

Dr. Stephen Higgs is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases and the Director of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University.

“The potential for zoonotic SARS-CoV-2 to infect companion animals has been a topic of much discussion,” said Dr. Higgs. 

“With over 3 million cases of COVID-19 and over a quarter of a million deaths worldwide so far since January, it is vital that we understand the risks posed by domestic animals as a possible source for human infection. This review brings all of what we know about SARS-CoV-2, pets, and other animals to our readership.”

The full article, “A Critical Needs Assessment for Research in Companion Animals and Livestock Following the Pandemic of COVID-19 in Humans,” can be found here.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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