K-State researchers study cats, pigs with coronavirus

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Cats and pigs could be helping Kansas State University researchers better understand how coronavirus spreads.

Research at K-State is wide-ranging from helping develop vaccines and therapies to finding out how to prevent the virus from spreading.

“We started this research very intense in early March, and we have not taken a day off since then, so this is really top priority. All the other research stopped,” said Juergen Richt, a K-State professor.

Richt runs the lab doing the research.

Recently cats and pigs were picked to be studied. Pigs were chosen because they have been susceptible to previous coronaviruses. They chose cats because of the high number of them in homes on streets, as well as reports of them being infected.

The research showed that pigs aren’t likely to be significant virus spreaders, but cats are a different story.

“Not only did they shed the virus very efficiently, but they also transmitted the virus very efficiently to contact animals,” Richt said.

The differences in the animals could help determine why the virus is impacting certain species. It can also be used to help find out what the human to cat relationship is.

“We have to be very careful about this transmission chain from humans to cats, to another cat. It could be another animal susceptible, or even a human being and that’s why these studies are very important to inform public health and veterinary health,” Richt said.

The research showed that reinfection is possible, but spread because of it can be unlikely. Richt said this could lead to the assumption of it being the case in humans too.

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