Covid: We can all transmit the virus to our pets, the point with the researchers of Montpellier

Several Montpellier studies have shown a significant percentage of contamination in homes where covid is circulating. The first cases have even been detected in rabbits. On the other hand, to date no contamination from pets to humans.

Are pets exposed to the coronavirus? Is it better to adopt barrier gestures with your partner when you are positive for covid? These questions have obviously been asked since the start of the pandemic and several studies have tried to provide answers.

The latter was led by Eric Leroy, research director at the MIVEGEC laboratory, a joint research unit of the University of Montpellier, IRD and CNRS, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine. This study, funded by the ANR and published on January 27, 2022 in the journal Veterinary Sciences aimed at determining the seroprevalence of the coronavirus infection responsible for Covid-19 in pets.

Eight months of study on nearly 6000 animals

It extended for eight months, from November 2020 to July 2021, to search for specific antibodies on all animals that the partner lab-linked clinics received in France. With nearly 6,000 samples, it was the largest animal study ever. While dogs and cats made up 90% of the specimens, the researchers highlighted for the first time positive cases of pet rabbits (2 samples out of 144).

“The observed low seroprevalence may be due to a low susceptibility of rabbits to SARS-CoV-2 or to less close contact between these pets and their owners.”explains Eric Leroy, whose previous study had shown, in 2020, the transmission of the virus from humans to animals: 20% of cats and dogs living with contaminated humans had developed antibodies. “This serological investigation does not categorically identify the source of the contamination but the fact that the risk for a domestic carnivore to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 is just as high if it resides in a COVID-19 positive person constitutes a strong argument. for the human origin of the infection “says the researcher.

Cases of myocarditis in England

Most infected animals do not develop or develop few symptoms. “However, during a study we conducted in England at the time of the outbreak due to the Alpha variant, we were the first to show the infection of dogs and cats by this variant and we observed an increase in cases of myocarditis in a clinic. specialized in animal cardiology, probably related to this variant “Eric Leroy specifies.

Should we therefore fear human infection by pets? For the moment, only rare and exceptional cases have been reported: suspicion of an infected handler in Denmark in a mink farm but with a very high density of animals, or that of a hamster seller in Hong Kong. “We have never formally demonstrated an infection of a human by a pet.confirms Eric Leroy, but the danger is above all that this virus evolves rapidly. It can be imagined that by multiplying the steps in these animals, they mutate, they adapt to an animal species, and thus become a new source of contamination for the human being.

Study in Congo to see if the virus does not re-establish itself in wildlife

The researcher has just completed the studies, currently in the publication phase, to evaluate the differences in contamination between dogs and cats and between animals in cities and in the countryside. To monitor the evolution of the virus, he is conducting another two-year NRA-funded study in Congo: “The rainforest ecosystem of the Congo Basin is similar to that of Southeast Asia, where the pandemic began. The idea is to see if the virus will not spill over into wildlife. Central Africa, settling there and constituting a new birthplace of SARS-CoV-2 which could be the source of new epidemics.

If this hypothesis were verified, and given the multiplicity of animal species susceptible to the virus that constitute so many potential future reservoirs, the researcher estimates that it would become “It is urgent and imperative to create a long-term network to monitor the future emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in humans from novel zoonotic reservoirs within an environment without operational systems for alerting, detection and support.”

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