Scientists have called for studying the spread of the novel coronavirus across animal species, and between animals and humans, stressing the need to assess the impact of such transmission on food security.
The review research, published in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, identifies the critical need to understand the ability of the novel coronavirus to infect certain animals such as livestock, poultry, working animals like military service dogs, and species in zoos.
According to the researchers, including those from the Western University of Health Sciences in the US, there is also an urgent need to assess transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 infection between humans and those animals.
"The potential for zoonotic SARS-CoV-2 to infect companion animals has been a topic of much discussion," said Stephen Higgs, Director, Biosecurity Research Institute in the US.
In the study, the researchers cited anecdotes of pets being infected with the novel cornavirus, including the case of a cat in Belgium.
"Contrary to earlier assertions by health agencies that the virus could not cause illness in pets, the cat developed both respiratory and enteric symptoms and took nine days to recover," the scientists wrote in the study.
They said large amounts of antigen were repeatedly demonstrated in the cat's vomit and feces over multiple days, which led scientists to conclude that the feline had been infected by SARS-CoV-2.
Since tigers and lions in the US zoo have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said more questions need to be answered about species susceptibility, duration of infection, viral shedding, and asymptomatic reservoirs of COVID-19.
"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," Higgs said.