It is known that a clinical trial for any drug involves the role of animals but one has to know how a pathogen attacks the animals too. Mice, dogs, cats, monkeys and ferrets are a part of the ongoing research to know how coronavirus behaves with other species. Studies are in the assessment of each animal as to how they may carry the coronavirus as an intermediate host.
Mice being cheap and easy to handle are usually used in experiments. However, Science Mag reports that these animals were "inert" and were not affected by the novel coronavirus as its ACE2 receptor where the virus enters the cell, is not the same as humans.
But science came to rescue during the SARS outbreak, researchers from the University of Iowa genetically engineered strain of mice making it support the human enzyme that coronaviruses use in order to enter human cells. After this mice generated antibodies after contracting the virus. Jackson Laboratory in Maine that specializes in producing research mice is now on a mission to breed thousands of them after they received sperms of the genetically engineered mice.
Rhesus monkeys are prone to contracting novel coronavirus disease similar to humans, reported The Scientist. They developed pneumonia but not fever. Regeneron, a pharmaceutical company based in a New York is trying for treatment based on antibodies produced by such rodents.
Researching the effect of novel coronavirus on monkeys and other animals helps us to study the evolution of the virus among organisms similar to humans, also in knowing the extent of COVID-19 in these species.
Domestic animals: Ferret most promising
Studies are already on, to check how the virus works on domestic animals. Science Mag reported that cats and dogs are the usual close contact animals with humans. studying if the animals infect humans is a point of COVID-19 research.
Researchers say that SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) replicates poorly among dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks. However, they added that cats and ferrets do get infected with high susceptibility.
One study highlights that ferrets' respiratory systems are very much similar to that of humans and would prove invaluable in studying coronavirus drugs and how it affects their lungs. Ferrets are used for experimenting influenza treatments too. They are banned as pets in the US as they spread diseases to humans
Experts think that ferrets offer researchers significant information on coronavirus so that they may skip monkey studies and jump to human testing soon. Emergent BioSolutions is extracting plasma (a major component of blood) from horses to develop antibodies consisting of immune cells to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.