Fact Check: Is There A Link Between New COVID Variant Omicron And Animals?

New York: Is there a link between animals and Omicron variant of COVID-19?

Well, a recent study has found that new coronavirus variants can develop when animals catch COVID-19 from human beings.

A team at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas, analysed mutation types occurring in the SARS-CoV-2 virus after infection of cats, dogs, ferrets and hamsters.

A range of animals — wild, zoo and pets – infected by COVID have demonstrates cross-species transmission, which is a rare occurrence for most viruses.

“SARS-CoV-2, in the realm of coronaviruses, has a very broad species range… Generally speaking, many types of viruses can’t infect other species of animals, they evolved to be very specific,” said Laura Bashor, one of the authors of the study which was published in PNAS, the official journal of National Academy of Sciences.

“Humans have so much exposure to many different animals which permitted this virus to have the opportunity to expose a variety of different species,” said Erick Gagne, another author.

While investigating the viral evolution of SARS-CoV-2, specialists in disease transmission in wild and domestic cats did sequence analysis and studied a collection of genomes to SARS-CoV-2. Researchers used their animal modelling expertise to develop a test for SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility of animal species.

“We found there was evolution, we saw the selection on the virus, and we saw a lot of variants emerge in the genome sequence of the virus,” said Bashor.

A SARS-CoV-2 human sample was cultivated in cells grown in the lab. Bashor and Gagne found that multiple mutations developed and became a greater percentage of genetic population, at each step of the process.

The virus was then introduced to four household species, with samples collected from their nasal passages after infection.

“In the animals, the cell culture variants reverted back to the initial human type, which indicates that there is adaption occurring in that cell culture and environment that was selected for those variants,” said Gagne.

Not all these mutations within the cell culture SARS-CoV-2 variant transferred to new hosts. Different mutations emerged within the virus shed by live animals.

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