Which animals are vulnerable to COVID-19?

TUESDAY 15 December 2020

Humans, ferrets, cats, civets and dogs are the animals most susceptible to infection with the new coronavirus, the researchers say.

The analysis of 10 species also found that ducks, rats, mice, pigs and chickens were less or less sensitive to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Knowing which animals are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 helps us prevent the formation of animal reservoirs from which the coronavirus can re-emerge at a later time,” said senior author of the study, Luis Serrano.

“Our results offer a clue as to why the minks – which are closely related to the ferret – were infected with the disease, which is likely worsened by their crowded living conditions and close contact with human workers,” he added. . Serrano is director of the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

“Although we also find potential susceptibility to infections by cats, they do not coexist with humans in the same conditions as other animals, which may explain why there are no known cases of people infected with their pets so far,” Serrano said in a report. press release of the center.

The study was recently published online in the journal Computational biology PLOS.

For their study, the researchers used computer models to evaluate how the novel coronavirus uses the spike proteins on its surface to invade the cells of different animals.

The main point of entry on the surface of a cell is the ACE2 receptor, which binds to the spike protein. People have a wide range of ACE2 variants, as well as different species.

Variants of the ACE2 receptor in humans, followed by ferrets, cats, dogs and civets, have the strongest link with the spike protein of the new coronavirus. Mice, rats, chickens and ducks have a poor bond, according to the researchers.

The researchers also found that several human variants of ACE2 can affect whether people are more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19.

“We have identified mutations in protein S that dramatically reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to enter the cell, protecting the host from COVID-19 capture,” said study first author Javier Delgado, who is also a researcher. at the center.

“We are now designing mini-proteins from the human ACE2 protein to ‘distract’ the attention of the virus from entering cells and blocking an infection,” he said. “If new mutations of the viral protein arise, we could design new variants to block them.”

According to the researchers, learning more about the susceptibility of different species to SARS-CoV-2 infection can help guide public health measures, such as reducing human contact with other sensitive animals.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: Center for Genomic Regulation, press release, 10 December 2020

Robert Preidt

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