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No indication for SARS-CoV-2 transmission to pet ferrets, in five cities in Poland, 2021 - antibody testing among ferrets living with owners infected with SARS-CoV-2 or free of infection

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in China by the end of 2019 and was responsible for a pandemic in the human population that resulted in millions of deaths worldwide. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the role of animals as spill-over or reservoir hosts was discussed. In addition to cats and dogs, ferrets are becoming increasingly popular as companion animals. Under experimental conditions, ferrets are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and it appears that they can also be infected through contact with a SARS-CoV-2 positive owner. However, there is still little information available regarding these natural infections. Here, we serologically tested samples collected from pet ferrets (n = 45) from Poland between June and September 2021. Of the ferrets that were included in the study, 29% (13/45) had contact with owners with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections. Nevertheless, SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies could not be detected in any of the animals, independent of the infection status of the owner. The obtained results suggest that ferrets cannot be readily infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions, even after prolonged contact with infected humans. However, due to the rapid mutation rate of this virus, it is important to include ferrets in future monitoring studies.



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