Some animals are more susceptible to Covid-19 infection than others, and new research suggests this may be due to distinctive structural features of a protein found on the surface of animal cells. João Rodrigues of Stanford University, California, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology.
Previous research suggests that the current pandemic began when the virus that causes Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, jumped from bats or pangolins to humans. Certain other animals, such as cattle and cats, appear to be susceptible to Covid-19, while others, such as pigs and chickens, are not. One zoo even reported infections in tigers. However, it was unclear why some animals are immune and others are not.
To address this question, Rodrigues and colleagues looked for clues in the first step of infection, when SARS-CoV-2’s “spike” protein binds to an “ACE2” receptor protein on the surface of an animal cell. They