University professors successfully diagnose COVID-19 in two new animal species


Cameron Krasucki

Addison the cat sits in a cage at the Champaign County Humane Society on October 11. University professors have found COVID-19 in two other animal species located in an Illinois zoo: the fishing cat and the binturong.

Veterinary efforts across the country have recently focused and investigated how COVID-19 spreads and infects animal species. On October 6, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories of the United States Department of Agriculture publicly confirmed that SARS-CoV-2 had been detected in two animal species located at an Illinois zoo: the fishing cat and the binturong.

The detected samples were first tested and analyzed by Dr. Leyi Wang, clinical professor and veterinary virologist at the University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The detection process differs from the traditional COVID-19 testing method in humans.

“We normally do the nucleotide acid extraction and then we do the detection or testing on the machine,” Wang said. “For COVID-19 testing for humans, we are skipping the extraction part. “

Another distinction between tests done for animals and those for humans concerns the substance being tested, according to Dr. Karen Terio, clinical professor and head of the Zoological Pathology program.

“A lot of times when we test non-domestic species, we can’t get them to spit in a tube,” Terio said.

“The majority of cases, Dr. Wang’s lab was able to diagnose an infection (was) from fecal samples, because if you think about it, when you get sick and cough, you spit the virus out of your lungs. , then you swallow it and it comes out in the stool.

The Zoological Pathology Program, led by Terio and based near Chicago, is providing samples for VDL to test, according to Wang. Once a sample is confirmed positive, it is sent to the federal lab for confirmation.

“Until they confirm our results, we are not allowed to share the data or the report,” Wang said.

Other animal species that have been confirmed by the COVID-19 virus include gorillas and many types of wild cats, such as tigers, lions, snow leopards and pumas, according to Terio.

“One of the things that was really interesting was the sensitivity of the feral cats, and some of them got sick as well,” Terio said. “It’s sort of in contrast to what they see in domestic cats. Wild cats seem to be more severely affected for some reason, and we don’t know why.

Although there have been cases indicating transmission between animals, the initial infection is believed to have resulted from interactions with sick humans.

“We assume it’s from people, but we can’t always prove it,” Terio said. “Sometimes we don’t know exactly where this came from because we have no evidence that the people who have been around the animal are HIV positive.”

Wang believes this transmission is what makes research and testing of animal samples so important.

“This is the reason we are testing,” Wang said. “We need to adopt a strategy to control and prevent the spread in animals. “

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