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The B.1.1.7 variant identified in companion animals

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Dogs and cats are not immune to genetic variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, reports the review Science. For the first time, virologists have shown that pets can be infected with the B.1.1.7 variant identified in the United Kingdom, writes the American media.

A French team indicates, in a study in pre-publication filed on the BioRxiv open server, having analyzed animals treated in a veterinary center on the outskirts of London. The work began after the establishment reported observing a curious upsurge in cases of myocarditis in dogs and cats admitted to its walls.

A curious upsurge in myocarditis

From December 2020 to February 2021, the incidence of this inflammation of the heart muscle jumped by almost a factor of ten, from 1.4% to 12.8%, writes in his study virologist Eric Leroy, of the Research institute for the development of the University of Montpellier.

His team examined eight cats and three dogs admitted to this veterinary hospital. None of the animals had a history of heart disease, yet all exhibited symptoms, including lethargic state, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and even fainting. Further examinations revealed the presence of cardiac disorders, in particular arrhythmias and pulmonary edema, “so many symptoms also observed in humans sick with Covid-19”, writes Science.

Read also: Felines are more susceptible to coronavirus

Could there be a link between these heart problems and the coronavirus? To be sure, seven of these four-legged companions were tested by RT-PCR. Result, three were positive, all with the variant B.1.1.7. Of the other four beasts, tested serologically, two were diagnosed as having been infected in the past. There is no formal proof that the virus is responsible for myocarditis, but the clue is taken seriously.

The role of pets in question

Scientists say they do not know whether the better transmissibility of B.1.1.7 allowed it to “jump” from humans to animals, or vice versa. But these results have enough to revive the hypotheses on the role of pets in the epidemic.

The studies carried out last spring all showed that the latter played no, or almost no, role. in the spread of the coronavirus. But is what was valid for the 2020 version variants still valid today, when the new variants are the result of intense selective pressure? There is no reason to worry, but the matter needs to be watched, the article in essence concludes. Science.

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