SARS-CoV-2 in animals: potential for unknown reservoir hosts and public health implications.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, previously 2019-nCoV) is suspected of having originated in 2019 in China from a coronavirus infected bat of the genus Rhinolophus. Following the initial emergence, possibly facilitated by a mammalian bridge host, SARS-CoV-2 is currently transmitted across the globe via efficient human-to-human transmission. Results obtained from experimental studies indicate that animal species such as cats, ferrets, raccoon dogs, cynomolgus macaques, rhesus macaques, white-tailed deer, rabbits, Egyptian fruit bats, and Syrian hamsters are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and that cat-to-cat and ferret-to-ferret transmission can take place via contact and air. However, natural infections of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported only in pet dogs and cats, tigers, lions, snow leopards, pumas, and gorillas at zoos, and farmed mink and ferrets. Even though human-to-animal spillover has been reported at several instances, SARS-CoV-2 transmission from animals-to-humans has only been reported from mink-to-humans in mink farms. Following the rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within the mink population, a new mink-associated SARS-CoV-2 variant emerged that was identified in both humans and mink. The increasing reports of SARS-CoV-2 in carnivores indicate the higher susceptibility of animal species belonging to this order. The sporadic reports of SARS-CoV-2 infection in domestic and wild animal species require further investigation to determine if SARS-CoV-2 or related Betacoronaviruses can get established in kept, feral or wild animal populations, which may eventually act as viral reservoirs. This review analyzes the current evidence of SARS-CoV-2 natural infection in domestic and wild animal species and their possible implications on public health.