Natural SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Kept Ferrets in Spain

Found severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 RNA in 6 (8.4%) of 71 ferrets in central Spain and isolated and sequenced virus from 1 oral and 1 rectal swab specimen. Natural infection occurs in kept ferrets when virus circulation among humans is high. However, small ferret collections probably cannot maintain virus circulation.

Natural infection of animals with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been reported in pet cats and dogs, zoo felids and apes, and mustelids belonging to the subfamily Mustelinae. Among mustelids, natural SARS-CoV-2 infections have been recorded in farmed American mink (Neovison vison) and sporadically in wild mink and in a kept pet ferret (Mustela putorius furo) from an infected household in Slovenia. Ferrets are common laboratory models, and experimental infections have evidenced their susceptibility to and ability to transmit the virus to other ferrets. SARS-CoV-2 is shed for up to 8 days postinfection (dpi) in nasal washes, saliva, urine, and feces and is effectively transmitted to naive ferrets by direct contact and through the air. Experimentally infected ferrets display either no clinical signs or exhibit elevated body temperature and loss of appetite.

Authors:  Christian Gortázar , Sandra Barroso-Arévalo, Elisa Ferreras-Colino, Julio Isla, Gabriela de la Fuente, Belén Rivera, Lucas Domínguez, José de la Fuente, and José M. Sánchez-Vizcaíno

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