Infection and Rapid Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Ferrets

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Infection and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in ferrets

Published 20 April 2020

Kim, Y. et al. (2020) Infection and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Ferrets. Cell Host & Microbe

This study reports on the infection and transmission, through direct and indirect contact, of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in ferrets. On three separate occasions, 2 ferrets were inoculated intranasally with virus and housed separately. 2 days after inoculation each of the inoculated ferrets was co-housed with a non-exposed ferret to assess transmission by direct contact. A second non-exposed ferret was placed in an adjacent cage (indirect contact). In all, there were 24 ferrets in the study, 6 inoculated ferrets, 6 direct contacts, 6 indirect contacts and 6 unexposed controls. All ferrets were tested for the presence of virus (through PCR) in serum, nasal washes, saliva, urine and faeces every other day for 12 days.

Inoculated ferrets became sick with raised body temperature, lethargy and some coughing and shed virus in nasal washes, saliva, urine and faeces for up to 8 days post-infection.

Two days after contact with the inoculated ferrets, all the direct contact ferrets were also positive for viral RNA in nasal washes, saliva, urine and faeces. The direct contact ferrets also showed raised body temperature and decreased activity from day 2-6 post-exposure.

A small number of the ferrets that were in indirect contact with the inoculated ferrets were positive for viral RNA from day 4-8 in nasal washes and days 4-6 in faeces, but none of these animals showed any signs of illness.

This study confirms that ferrets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and suggests that they may, therefore, be a good model for the infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and may facilitate the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. However, it is unclear if the response to intranasal inoculation of virus used in this study should be extrapolated to natural exposure.

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