SARS-CoV-2 in animals: From potential hosts to animal models

Within only one year after the first detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), nearly 100 million infections were reported in the human population globally, with more than two million fatal cases. While SARS-CoV-2 most likely originated from a natural wildlife reservoir, neither the immediate viral precursor nor the reservoir or intermediate hosts have been identified conclusively. Due to its zoonotic origin, SARS-CoV-2 may also be relevant to animals. Thus, to evaluate the host range of the virus and to assess the risk to act as potential animal reservoir, a large number of different animal species were experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 or monitored in the field in the last months. In this review, we provide an update on studies describing permissive and resistant animal species. Using a scoring system based on viral genome detection subsequent to SARS-CoV-2 inoculation, seroconversion, the development of clinical signs and transmission to conspecifics or humans, the susceptibility of diverse animal species was classified on a semi-quantitative scale. While major livestock species such as pigs, cattle and poultry are mostly resistant, companion animals appear moderately susceptible, while several model animal species used in research, including several Cricetidae species and non-human primates, are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. By natural infections, it became obvious that American minks (Neovison vison) in fur farms, e.g., in the Netherlands and Denmark are highly susceptible resulting in local epidemics in these animals.

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