A pre- and during Pandemic Survey of Sars-Cov-2 Infection in Stray Colony and Shelter Cats from a High Endemic Area of Northern Italy

12 de abril de 2021

Pesquisa de infecção por Sars-Cov-2 em gatos de abrigo e de colônias não domiciliadas antes e durante a pandemia em area endêmica no norte da Italia.

Autores

Eva Spada, Fabrizio Vitale, Federica Bruno, Germano Castelli, Stefano Reale, Roberta Perego, Luciana Baggiani and Daniela Proverbio

Abstract

Cats are susceptible to infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Whilst a number of studies have been performed worldwide on owned cats, limited data are available on stray, colony or shelter cats. We investigated SARS-CoV-2 infection in a stray cat population before and during human outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in cities in the Lombardy region in northern Italy, a high endemic region for SARS-CoV-2, using serological and molecular methods. A cohort of different samples were collected from 241 cats, including frozen archived serum samples from 136 cats collected before the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and serum, pharyngeal and rectal swab samples from 105 cats collected during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. All prepandemic samples tested seronegative for antibodies against the nucleocapsid of SARS-CoV-2 using indirect enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test, while one serum sample collected during the pandemic was seropositive. No serological cross-reactivity was detected between SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and antibodies against feline enteric (FECV) and infectious peritonitis coronavirus (FIPC), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Calicivirus (FCV), Feline Herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), Feline Parvovirus (FPV), Leishmania infantum, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Toxoplasma gondii or Chlamydophila felis. No pharyngeal or rectal swab tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA on real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR). Our data show that SARS-CoV-2 did infect stray cats in Lombardy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with lower prevalence than found in owned cats. This should alleviate public concerns about stray cats acting as SARS-CoV-2 carriers.

Keywords

COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; stray cat; shelter cats; ELISA; RT-PCR; northern Italy

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