Which Animals Most Vulnerable to COVID Infection?

TUESDAY December 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Humans, ferrets, cats, civets and dogs are the animals most susceptible to infection with the novel coronavirus, researchers say.

Analysis of 10 species also revealed that ducks, rats, mice, pigs and chickens were less or not susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2.

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

“Our results give some idea of ​​why minks – which are closely related to ferrets – are infected with the disease, which is likely made worse by their compact living conditions and close contact with human workers,” he said. he adds. Serrano is director of the Genome Regulation Center in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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

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

For their study, the researchers used computer modeling to assess how the new coronavirus uses advanced proteins on its surface to invade cells from different animals.

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

The ACE2 receptor variants in humans, followed by ferrets, cats, dogs and civets, have the strongest binding to the spike protein on the novel coronavirus. Mice, rats, chickens and ducks have a bad bond, the researchers say.

Investigators have also found that different human variants of ACE2 can affect the likelihood of people showing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

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

“We are currently developing mini-proteins from the human ACE2 protein to ‘distract’ the virus from entering cells and block infection,” he said. “If new mutations in the viral spike protein arise, we could design new variants to block them.”

Learning more about the susceptibility of different species to SARS-CoV-2 infection may help guide public health measures, such as reducing human contact with other susceptible animals, the researchers say.

More information

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

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

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