Importance of genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in cats during reverse zoonosis events: potential viral evolution may occur

Microbiol Spectr. 2023 Aug 11;11(5):e0068023. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.00680-23. Online ahead of print.


The apparition of new variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and lineages is constantly happening because of the high viral mutation rate. Since numerous reverse zoonosis events have been reported so far, genomic surveillance should be conducted in susceptible species to evaluate potential adaptations that may trigger the apparition of new variants. Here, we evaluate the evolution of the infection in a cat naturally infected in parallel with its owner, performing a comparative phylogenetic analysis. Sequencing analysis showed that both were infected with the Omicron BA.5/BF.1 lineage and revealed the presence of nucleotide substitution in the viral genome recovered from the cat with respect to the viral genome from the human sample. This nucleotide substitution (C11897A) produced the amino acid change Orf1a: Q3878K. Therefore, genomic surveillance in the case of reverse zoonosis events is still necessary in order to control possible adaptations of the virus to other susceptible species. IMPORTANCE Genomic surveillance of pets for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is important to monitor the emergence of new variants of the virus associated with these animals. Pets can serve as a potential reservoir for the virus, and their close contact with humans increases the risk of transmission. By conducting genomic surveillance in pets, it is possible to detect and track new variants early on, allowing for more effective control measures to be put in place. This can help prevent the spread of these variants to human populations and potentially mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Furthermore, it may also provide insight into the evolution and spread of the virus within the animal population.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; cats; genomic surveillance; mutation; viral evolution.