In a first, Covid vaccine developed for dogs, cats in India: What experts think of this breakthrough

Kashmir Scroll Webdesk
Kashmir Scroll Webdesk

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In what is being viewed as a massive breakthrough in pet health, India’s first Covid-19 vaccine for animals has been developed. It is called ‘Anocovax’ and it has been developed by Haryana’s ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines.

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The country’s first indigenously-developed Covid vaccine for animals is safe for dogs, cats, lions, leopards, mice and rabbits. According to the ICAR-National Veterinary Research Center, Hisar, Anocovax is an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 Delta (Covid-19) vaccine that is meant for animals. It neutralises both Delta and Omicron variants.

The ICAR said in a statement: “The CAN-CoV-2 ELISA Kit is a sensitive and specific nucleocapsid protein based indirect ELISA Kit for antibody detection against SARS-CoV-2 in canines.”

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The reason why it is being seen as a significant development is because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus that causes Covid-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact.

Pets worldwide — including cats and dogs — have been infected with this virus, mostly after close contact with people with Covid-19. The risk of pets spreading the infection to people, however, is low.

Dr Dilip Sonune, director, veterinary services, Wiggles.in says in India, SARs-CoV-2 Delta is identical to the human strain of SARS-CoV-2 Delta.

“So far, infection has been reported in lions. Pet animals like dogs and cats are also at high risk due to their close contact with the human population. Jumping of SARS-CoV-2 from human to animals might accelerate its evolution, and hence affect surveillance and control strategies of Covid-19 in humans,” he tells indianexpress.com.

He adds that SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in animals is not only essential to prevent animal-to-animal transmission, but also essential to prevent zoonotic transmission back to humans.

“The mutative nature of this virus can ultimately lead to its spreading in all species, and thus, needs an inhibitor like Anocovax — making it a positive breakthrough in this endeavour.”

Dr Vineeta Poojary, manager, veterinary services at the Humane Society International, concurs and explains that vaccine production has been at the forefront of Covid fight, even in the animal sector, “primarily because there have been reports of Covid [infection] in animals from close contact with people”.

“The concern arises from the fact that if animals get Covid, [the virus] can mutate further than what has been seen in humans. Having a vaccine available would prevent that from being a worry anymore,” she remarks.

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