First test system to diagnose animals with coronavirus pathogen created in Russia

MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. The first test system to diagnose animals with the coronavirus pathogen has been created in Russia on the basis of the agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadszor, an adviser to the agency’s chief, Yulia Melano, has said.

“In Russia, the first system to diagnose animals with the pathogen of the novel coronavirus infection COVID-19 has been created. It is a product of the watchdog’s research institute — Federal Center for the Protection of Animals’ Health,” Melano said.

She explained that by now a set of methodological recommendations has been drawn up and authorized that allows for testing samples of animals’ biomaterials on the basis of the animals’ health protection center. “In April the center plans to produce COVID-19 diagnostic kits, which will allow for making about 10,000 tests of animals’ biomaterials on the basis of Rosselkhoznadzor’s veterinary laboratories and reference centers across the nation,” Melano said.

Similar work will be carried out soon on the basis of another research center subordinate to Rosselkhoznadzor — the national state-run Center for Quality and Standardization of Veterinary Drugs and Feeds, which is close to finalizing its own diagnostic test system.

The deputy director for research and monitoring of the Federal Center for the Protection of Animals’ Health, Ilya Chvala, said the new method was meant for identifying the COVID-19 pathogen in different animals, including companion animals — dogs and cats. The new diagnostic system is based on the PCR method (polymerase chain reaction) in real time. It was developed in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations.

“Oral and nasal samples, and possibly fecal and rectal samples will be taken from animals,” Rosselkhoznadzor expert Nikita Lebedev said.

Experts say that scientists know some other coronaviruses that infect dogs, cats and livestock.

“We have studied the sensitivity of the new test system and conducted research with different pathogens that represent the coronavirus family. The test system clearly determined the sample where the RNA of the COVID-19’s pathogen was present,” Lebedev explained. Experts added that the novel coronavirus had become widespread among humans and there was a certain risk the animals that are in close contact with infected people may contract the virus, too.

Melano added that according to the official opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) at the moment there was no solid proof of the risk that humans might contract the COVID-19 from companion animals (such as dogs and cats). However, the infection of animals with this virus may entail certain consequences for the health and well-being of animals and for the preservation of wildlife. “In this connection the Russian agricultural watchdog plans to commission its subordinate offices to evaluate the risk of the disease being spread among companion animals in Russia’s territory with the aim to prevent the COVID-19 from taking root in the population of household animals,” Melano said.

Lebedev sees no need for comprehensive tests of all animals. According to OIE recommendations, samples should be taken first and foremost from animals with clinical symptoms of the disease, or pets that had contacts with infected humans. He said that the kits for testing animals for the coronavirus would be distributed in large cities with growing infection rates and also regions with international airports. This new method will be used to test companion animals returning with their owners from abroad.