Pet owners could be forced to vaccinate animals against Covid-19 to curb the spread of the deadly bug.
That is the warning from researchers based at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich-based research facility the Earlham Institute and University of Minnesota.
Writing in Virulence, they warned: “It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might… be necessary to curb the spread of the infection.
Cock van Oosterhout, professor of evolutionary genetics at UEA, warned: “It makes sense to develop vaccines for pets, for domestic animals, just as a precaution to reduce this risk..
“What we need to be as a human society, we really need to be prepared for any eventuality when it comes to Covid.
“I think the best way to do this is indeed consider development of vaccines for animals as well.
“Interestingly the Russians have already started to develop a vaccine for pets, which there’s very little information about.”
Kevin Tyler, editor-in-chief of Virulence, said: “Cats are asymptomatic but they are infected by it and they can infect humans with it.
“The risk is that, as long as there are these reservoirs, that it starts to pass as it did in the mink from animal to animal, and then starts to evolve animal-specific strains, but then they spill back into the human population and you end up essentially with a new virus which is related which causes the whole thing all over again.”
He said that while mink were culled in Denmark, “if you were thinking about domestic animals, companion animals, then you might think about whether you could vaccinate to stop that from happening”.