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Research Project: Rift Valley Fever Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, and Control Measures

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Title: SARS-CoV-2 infection, disease and transmission in domestic cats

Author
item GAUDREAULT, NATASHA - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item TRUJILLO, JESSIE - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item CAROSSINO, MARIANO - LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
item MEEKINS, DAVID - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item MADDEN, DANIEL - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item INDRAN, SABARISH - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item MOROZOV, IGOR - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item BOLD, DASHZEVEG - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item BALARAMAN, VELMURUGAN - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item KWONG, TAEYONG - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item ROMAN-SOSA, GLEYDER - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item ARTIAGA, BIANCA - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item COOL, KONNER - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item GARCIA-SASTRE, ADOLFO - THE ICAHN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT MOUNT SINAI
item MA, WENJUN - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item Wilson, William

Submitted to: Emerging Infectious Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/5/2020
Publication Date: 10/25/2020
Citation: Gaudreault, N., Trujillo, J., Carossino, M., Meekins, D., Madden, D., Indran, S., Morozov, I., Bold, D., Balaraman, V., Kwong, T., Roman-Sosa, G., Artiaga, B., Cool, K., Garcia-Sastre, A., Ma, W., Wilson, W.C. 2020. SARS-CoV-2 infection, disease and transmission in domestic cats. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9(1):2322-2332. https://doi.org/10.1080/22221751.2020.1833687.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/22221751.2020.1833687

Interpretive Summary: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a coronavirus that is spread from human to human but there are numerous reports of cats being positive for this virus. This study was done to provide scientific information of the novel coronavirus susceptibility and transmission capabilities of cats. Although cats experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 did not have clinical symptoms they transmit the virus to uninflected cats when co-housed. The results of this study are critical for our understanding of the clinical course of the novel coronavirus in a naturally susceptible host species, for the development of an alternative preclinical animal model for COVID-19, and for risk assessment of the maintenance of novel coronavirus in cats and transmission to other animals and humans.

Technical Abstract: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and responsible for the current pandemic. Coronaviruses constitute a large family of RNA viruses that cause respiratory, enteric and systemic infections in numerous animal hosts including humans, and have been shown to occasionally cross species barriers. Recent SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility and transmission studies in cats show that the virus can replicate in these companion animals and transmit to other cats. Here, we present an in-depth study of SARS-CoV-2 infection, associated disease and transmission dynamics in domestic cats. Six 4- to 5-month-old cats were challenged with SARS-CoV-2 via intranasal and oral routes simultaneously. One day post challenge (DPC), two sentinel contact cats were co-mingled with the principal infected animals. Animals were monitored for clinical signs, clinicopathological abnormalities (blood cell counts, serum biochemistry) and viral shedding throughout the 21 DPC observation period. Animals were sacrificed and post mortem examinations performed at 4, 7 and 21 DPC to investigate disease progression in various organ systems and tissues including cerebral spinal fluid, urine and feces. Viral RNA was not detected in blood but transiently in nasal, oropharyngeal and rectal swabs, both in principal infected and sentinel contact animals, as well as in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid at 4 and 7 DPC and in various tissues of principal infected animals. Alkaline phosphatase levels in blood increased after 5 DPC. Macroscopic and microscopic lung lesions with associated presence of viral RNA and antigen were observed in the infected cats on 4 and 7 DPC. Serology showed that both, principal and sentinel cats developed SARS-CoV-2-specific and neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 starting at 7 DPC or 10 DPC, respectively. All animals were clinically asymptomatic during the course of the study, but they were capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to contact animals within 2 days of comingling. The results of this study are critical for our understanding of the clinical course of SARS-CoV-2 in a naturally susceptible host species, for the development of an alternative preclinical animal model for COVID-19, and for risk assessment of the maintenance of SARS-CoV-2 in felines and transmission to other animals and humans.