Animals could become “reservoirs” of coronavirus and lead to a second episode, even if it is eradicated in humans, according to scientists, wrote in the journal The Lancet.
Researchers at University College London say a global effort is needed to monitor possible outbreaks of the virus in various animal populations around the world.
They say that if the virus becomes common in an animal population that lives near people, such as domestic and farm animals, it could lead to a new epidemic in the region.
The authors call for more research in which animals are susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 crisis, the virus that causes the disease’s COVID-19, in hopes of stopping what is happening.
Researchers from University College London say a global effort is needed to monitor possible virus outbreaks in various animal populations around the world
Co-author Professor Joanne Santini says there is evidence that some animals can contract the virus from humans and may be able to transmit it back to them.
“We don’t know how much risk it is, as it is an area of study that has not yet received priority,” the biologist wrote in the opinion piece in the medical journal.
“We need to develop surveillance strategies to ensure that we do not come caught by surprise by a large animal epidemic, which could pose a threat not only to animal health, but to human health . ‘
Studies suggest COVID-19 started in a population bat in China, jumped to a second animal species, before being transmitted to humans last year.
With the proof that these animals can not only catch it, humans, but pass it on the back of their new one – more work is essential to understand this process.
‘Transmission of the virus to animal populations could become irreversible if left to do so, and can affect the success of public health measures if people continue to catch the virus from an animal-infected population,’ she says. .
The authors wrote that the immense magnitude of the pandemic increases the possibility of enough animals to become “reservoirs” of the virus.
This could be more likely than in the past, such as the most containing SARS-CoV-1 epidemic in 2002-2003 due to the magnitude of the infection in human populations.
Santini and co-author Professor Sarah Edwards reviewed evidence from case studies, experiments, infection testing in small groups of animals, as well as laboratory and modeling studies describing likely of infection mechanisms.
Modeling and laboratory studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 could, in theory, be transmitted to many animals.
This is based on the conclusions that the spicle protein on the virus attaches to the host cells, using a protein found in many different species.
Researchers advise once scientists identify animals that may be infected, they need to understand whether they feel sick or remain asymptomatic.
They also need to know if an infected creature is then able to transmit the virus to other animals or even to humans.
“Once SARS-CoV-2 circulates more widely beyond humans, it will be difficult to trace natural transmission between species, because the viral genome is essentially the same in humans,” they wrote in the Lancet.
Co-author Professor Joanne Santini says there is evidence that some animals can contract the virus from humans and may be able to transmit it back
In particular, there have been recent cases in the Netherlands in mink farms infected with SARS-CoV-2, leading to two people who contract the virus from these animals, in an epidemic which has led to thousands of minks to be picked.
Researchers say this highlights not only the risk to human health, but also animal welfare and the possible loss of livelihoods in the agricultural sector.
Professor Edwards said there is an urgent need for widespread surveillance of animal populations by testing large numbers of animals for the virus.
She said the focus should be on animals that live near humans such as animals, livestock and urban wildlife.
“More laboratory experiments on the small number of animals are unlikely to give us the elements to be sure that certain species are entirely safe, the big job of monitoring the only real option here,” said Edwards.
“We need more information, as well as taking simple precautionary measures, especially with species that have the potential to spread the virus quickly in the wild,” the researcher said.
“A solid risk assessment also requires a review of our ability to manage an epidemic in these animals, namely our ability to isolate, protect or contain different animals.”
The article is available in the Lancet Microbe.