Veterinary researchers from Kansas State University (K-State) are working to protect zoo animals from the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Testing performed by the university’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases is helping protect more than 100 mammalian species of animals in zoos around the world from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized use on a case-by-case basis of a Zoetis-developed experimental vaccine to help protect mammals living in zoos, K-State reports. The company donated the vaccine to more than 80 zoos, conservations, and wildlife facilities, which have been using it since summer 2021.
Researchers at K-State’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) tested the vaccine for safety and efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection. The team’s lead, Jürgen A. Richt, DVM, PhD, CEEZAD director and the Regents distinguished professor in the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says vaccines such as these go a long way in protecting animal populations, including endangered species.
“This developmental work on a COVID-19 vaccine for animals is an important step to protect susceptible animal species against SARS CoV-2 because research has shown that SARS-CoV-2 can be a threat to segments of the pet, wildlife, and zoo animal populations,” Dr. Richt says. “We know domestic and large cats and many zoo animals are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, probably acquiring the virus from their handlers.”
Zoetis initially began its work on a COVID vaccine for animals in February 2020 when the first dog was confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong. Global animal health authorities have thus far determined there is no need for a COVID vaccine for household pets.
Vaccine testing took place at the university’s Biosecurity Research Institute, a biocontainment research and education facility.