ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202207.0335.v1
Online: 22 July 2022 (09:57:40 CEST)
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2), etiological agent of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has spread since December 2019, resulting in massive health and economic crisis worldwide. While efforts to stop the pandemic are crucial, collecting epidemiological data to help manage current and future pandemics will be important. In addition to humans, serological and molecular based studies have demonstrated SARS CoV-2 exposure in several wild, domestic and farmed animals. For examples Shriner and the team showed serologically an exposure of 40% to the white deer living in close proximity to urban centers. Additional reports have also emerged of susceptibility of animal’s species like cats, ferrets, raccoon dogs, cynomolgus macaques, rhesus macaques, white-tailed deer, rabbits, Egyptian fruit bats, and Syrian hamsters to SARS-CoV-2 infection.. It’s worth emphasizing that these reports are based on experimental data mostly derived from Europe, USA, South America and parts of Asia. In limited instances natural infections of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported in pet dogs, cats, tigers, lions, snow leopards, pumas, gorillas at zoos and farmed mink and ferrets. The presence of the virus in animal species and an understanding of whether these are natural or recent human to animal transmissions is important. It’s possible that such transmission could passage the virus or subject the virus to a different immunological pressure thereby helping with the development of viral variants in addition to being a host for future reservoirs of the virus. In Kenya SARS-CoV-2 was first detected on March 12th 2020 from imported human cases of persons who had travelled from the United States. This was followed by detection of imported cases majorly from China, Sweden and United Kingdom. Later infections were confirmed in Nairobi and Mombasa suggesting further cases of disease importations through the major ports of entry. However, no comparable data on animal exposure have hitherto been generated in Kenya. To address this key concern, we focused on three objectives; 1) development of a robust antibody ELISA based on crude SARS-CoV-2 lysate. 2) SARS-CoV-2 serology of domestic animals in Kenya. 3) Corroboration of the crude lysate based seroprevalence data and a commercial ELISA kit based on the Spike receptor binding domain (RBD) antigen. Our sample set included camel sera (both pre- & post outbreak sera), as well as sera from cats and dogs collected at the peak of the pandemic. Our results using the ELISA based on crude SARS-CoV-2 lysate indicated SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in camels (71%, N=145), cats 11% (N=16) and dogs (81%, N=36) with varying titer levels. These findings were comparable to those obtained using the commercial ELISA kit based on the spike RBD antigens. In summary, the data warrants two key conclusions: (i) we have demonstrated that the crude lysate ELISA allows for SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection, and given its potential to offer robust detection could be applied for initial mass screening (ii) although the current study cannot disentangle the relative contributions of antigenic cross-reactivity, pre-pandemic exposure to SARS-CoV-2 or human-animal transmission, it nonetheless demonstrates for the first time the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 like antibodies in domestic and wild animals in Kenya. Our findings set the scene for further research into the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in domestic and wild animals to understand their potential epidemiological implications.