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SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant (AY.3) in the Feces of a Domestic Cat.

Abstract

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections have spilled over from humans to companion and wild animals since the inception of the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, whole genome sequencing data of the viral genomes that infect non-human animal species have been scant. Here, we detected and sequenced a SARS-CoV-2 delta variant (AY.3) in fecal samples from an 11-year-old domestic house cat previously exposed to an owner who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Molecular testing of two fecal samples collected 7 days apart yielded relatively high levels of viral RNA. Sequencing of the feline-derived viral genomes showed the two to be identical, and differing by between 4 and 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms in pairwise comparisons to human-derived lineage AY.3 sequences collected in the same geographic area and time period. However, several mutations unique to the feline samples reveal their divergence from this cohort on phylogenetic analysis. These results demonstrate continued spillover infections of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants that threaten human and animal health, as well as highlight the importance of collecting fecal samples when testing for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first published case of a SARS-CoV-2 delta variant in a domestic cat in the United States.

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