Do animals play a role in the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)? a commentary

Anna Costagliola, Giovanna Liguori, Danila D’angelo, Caterina Costa, Francesca Ciani, Antonio Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) belongs to the Beta-coronavirus genus. It is 96.2% homologous to bat CoV RaTG13 and 88% homologous to two bat SARS-like coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 is the infectious agent responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which was first reported in the Hubei province of Wuhan, China, at the beginning of December 2019. Human transmission from COVID-19 patients or incubation carriers occurs via coughing, sneezing, speaking, discharge from the nose, or fecal contamination. Various strains of the virus have been reported around the world, with different virulence and behavior. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 shares certain epitopes with some taxonomically related viruses, with tropism for the most common synanthropic animals. By elucidating the immunological properties of the circulating SARS-CoV-2, a partial protection due to human–animal interactions could be supposed in some situ-ations. In addition, differential epitopes could be used for the differential diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection. There have been cases of transmission from people with COVID-19 to pets such as cats and dogs. In addition, wild felines were infected. All These animals were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and recovered spontaneously. Experimental studies showed cats and ferrets to be more susceptible to COVID-19. COVID-19 positive dogs and felines do not transmit the infection to humans. In contrast, minks at farms were severely infected from people with COVID-19. A SARS-Cov-2 variant in the Danish farmed mink that had been previously infected by COVID-19 positive workers, spread to mink workers causing the first case of animal-to-human infection transmission that causes a moderate decreased sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies. Thus, more investigations are necessary. It remains important to understand the risk that people with COVID-19 pose to their pets, as well as wild or farm animals so effective recommendations and risk management measures against COVID-19 can be made. A One Health unit that facilitates collaboration between public health and veterinary services is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Zoonosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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