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Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 01:50 pm

New research has found out why the virus that causes COVID-19 is so transmissible between people and it turns out that it can infect cats…

Cornell University researchers studying the structure of the virus that causes COVID-19 have found a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people.

The researchers also note that cats are one of the animal species apparently most susceptible to the human virus, but don’t panic. To date, infections in cats appear to be mild and infrequent, and there is no evidence that cats can, in turn, infect humans.

Why is the virus so transmissible?

It’s all in the structure. The researchers identified a structural loop in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the area of the virus that facilitates entry into a cell, and a sequence of four amino acids in this loop that is different from other known human coronaviruses in this viral lineage.

An analysis of the lineage of SARS-CoV-2 showed it shared properties of the closely related SARS-CoV-1, which first appeared in humans in 2003 and is lethal but not highly contagious, and HCoV-HKU1, a highly transmissible but relatively benign human coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 is both highly transmissible and lethal.

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“It’s got this strange combination of both properties,” explains Gary Whittaker, professor of virology and senior author of the study, “The prediction is that the loop is very important to transmissibility or stability, or both.”

Whittaker said that the researchers are focused on further study of this structural loop and the sequence of four amino acids.

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Animals and COVID-19

Cats, ferrets and minks are also susceptible to the virus.

The researchers explain that, in order to infect a cell, features of the spike protein must bind with a receptor on the host cell’s surface, and cats have a receptor binding site that closely matches that of humans.

Whittaker added that investigations into feline coronaviruses could provide further clues into SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general.

For more information, see this Cornell Chronicle story:

Source: Cornell University via


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