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Coronavirus in animals: Asiatic lions stay isolated in Chennai zoo Are wild cats more vulnerable to infection

The coronavirus’ defining feature is its spike proteins, working with which it starts the approach of binding itself with the host cell. (Representational image)

Coronavirus and lions: Chennai’s Vandalur Zoo saw 9-year-old lioness Neela dying of an infection, suspected to be triggered by coronavirus, last week, and quickly soon after, the infected Asiatic lions at the zoo have been isolated and place on an antibiotic regime. Since Neela’s death, Bhopal-based National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases has identified samples of nine lions to be positive. According to a report in IE, Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin visited the zoo to take stock of the circumstance, and also asked authorities to guarantee vaccination of all employees members at the zoo. This marked the initial instance of a lion testing positive for the infection in the nation.

However, last week, at Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park positioned in Ranchi, a 10-year-old tiger died, and as per officials, was suffering from fever. While the tiger’s Rapid Antigen Test came back to be adverse, the viscera of the tiger was sent to Bareilly’s Indian Veterinary Research Institute. Amid this, other animals at the biological park have been also becoming tested.



Does this imply that lions and tigers are especially vulnerable to this virus? The coronavirus’ defining feature is its spike proteins, working with which it starts the approach of binding itself with the host cell. This binding is completed working with a protein known as ACE2 receptor amongst the hosts, and there are variations in the extent to which diverse species express this receptor. This distinction is what determines the vulnerability of a species to the virus. Studies have identified that domestic cats as effectively as their mighty wild relatives express ACE2 in a more substantial manner as compared to other species, and it has also been identified that ACE2 of cats is related to that of humans.



A paper published in PLOS Computational Biology last December had studied 10 diverse species and their ACE2 receptors, and identified that apart from humans, ferrets have been the most vulnerable species to finding infected by coronavirus, followed by cats and civets.

Another study published in PNAS last August had carried out a genomic evaluation of 410 species to realize their relative threat of coronavirus infection. It identified that primates like chimpanzee and rhesus macaque have been at pretty higher threat, although black lemur was identified to be at higher threat. According to this study, cats have been at a medium threat, and dogs have been identified to be at low threat.

A study performed in August last year looked at tissues collected from six cats and one tiger, and identified that there was a wide expression of ACE2 receptors in their gastrointestinal tracts. However, this expression was identified to be more prominent in cats than tigers.



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