Fotografía cedida por la Universidad de Paraná, emn Brasil, que muestra a una persona mientras toma muestras a un león, para la posible detección del coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Foto: Alexánder Biondo / Universidad de Paraná / EFE.

Brazil: cases of coronavirus in wildlife mobilizes the scientific community

infections by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in species of the Brazilian wild fauna, many of them without contact with human beings, are mobilizing the country’s scientific community, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and which fears for the animals in the face of the unknown number of new strains.

The detection of the virus in an anteater, a sagüí monkey and two manatees indicates that “more species are affected, but we hope that they will temporarily not develop the disease. That is why we do not talk about COVID-19 in animals and we do talk about Sars-CoV-2 infection, ”he told EFE the veterinarian Alexander Biondo.

“We have an exuberant fauna in Brazilmainly through the Amazon jungle and, further down (to the south), with the Atlantic Forest —forest ecosystem— and we already knew about those more susceptible animals, such as small monkeys, felines and weasels”, added Biondo, professor of Zoonoses at the Federal University of Parana.

According to the researcher, what “cause surprise” in the positive test in these four animals is that they had no contact with humans and arrived for other health problems, such as being run over in the case of the anteater, to veterinary hospitals in the Pantanal (west) and the Amazon (north).

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“We are anticipating that this number of positives will increase and that is why Brazil has to take care of its native fauna,” added Biondo, who warned that the more infected species, the more likely it is that new strains of the virus will develop.

“The virus can cause problems when the animal has an associated infection or morbidity and that is our concern, because we are entering an endemic phase with the majority of people vaccinated and zoos, aquariums and parks reopening,” he stressed.

The doctor in veterinary clinical pathology from the University of Illinois and with a postdoctoral degree in molecular biology from the University of California, both in the United States, recommended the vaccination of zoo animals and the pilot project hopes to be implemented in Curitiba, capital of Parana (south).

Biondo is also responsible for “PetCovid”, the first comprehensive study on Sars-CoV-2 infection in dogs and cats in Brazil, which is in the second stage, that of serology, and found that 15% of these pets households with infected owners in six analyzed capitals tested positive.

The infected dogs and kittens, despite the positive diagnosis for SARS-CoV-2, did not transmit the virus to humans and in the case of dogs there was no transmission between specimens of the same species, different from what did occur with some cats.

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“Other animal species are more susceptible, such as the mink – a small mammal raised for the use of its skin – that do transmit to man and that is why farms in the Netherlands and Denmark with large farms made a complete euthanasia with millions of animals,” he lamented. .

From the Brazilian study “it was shown that animals can be infected by people, not only domestic animals but also animals of native wildlife such as those of exotic fauna, including tigers and lions, which in Brazil are in zoos. , or our jaguars and wild cats”, he highlighted.

The specialist considers that an emergency vaccination for animals in zoos and the monitoring of some places considered to be a source of infection in forests and jungles, where fauna and indigenous communities coexist, are necessary actions to avoid further contagion.

“We suggest that a pilot vaccination be carried out not only in Brazil but in the rest of the world, in zoos everywhere, such as in Europe, where those in Spain are already considering this. So there is not yet a punctual outbreak, that the cases are isolated and the vaccine has not yet been tested in many species, “concluded Biondo.

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