Research on SARS-CoV-2 in different animal populations

Incidental cases of SARS-CoV-2 in pets and results from previous studies raise questions about the role of animals in this pandemic. Especially in a densely populated country like the Netherlands, where many people keep pets, animals can become a reservoir and transmit the virus to humans again in a later stage. Therefore, scientists are studying the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in different animal populations.

What does the research involve?

The research is divides into two components: research into antibodies and pathological research.

Research into antibodies

To gain more insight in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in different animal populations, research into antibodies is of vital importance. Therefore, scientists are investigating the presence of antibodies in a large number of blood samples from dogs and cats, that are sent to the laboratory of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for regular diagnostics.

In addition, scientists examine blood samples from cats in shelters and stray cats for antibodies. The transmission of the virus in these cat populations may differ from transmission between cats in households due to the different contact structure. When an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 occurs in an animal shelter, researchers will take blood samples repeatedly, that will be examined for antibodies as well as virus particles. In that way, important information about the transmission between cats can be obtained.

Pathological research

Furthermore, pathologists from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine examine dogs, cats, rabbits and (wild) mustelids, that are routinely offered for post-mortem examination. The susceptibility of these species to SARS-CoV-2 has already been demonstrated in experimental studies.  It is not only interesting to see if the virus is present in these animals, but also what the effects of the virus in the body are.

Responsible partner

The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University is responsible for this study. Herman Egberink is leading this research.