Lions and pumas at a South African zoo may have contracted Covid from their handlers, according to a study by scientists at the University of Pretoria.
The scientists warn of the risk of new variants emerging if the virus “establishes itself in other animal reservoirs” and is transmitted back to human beings.
The study was done after the animals fell ill with symptoms that were similar to coronavirus in human beings – including breathing difficulties, runny noses and a dry cough.
Covid tests on the animals turned out positive, the research noted, with data suggesting that they contracted the virus from staff handling them.
The authors noted that the zoo keepers had coronavirus circulating among them at the time but showed no symptoms.
They have recommended measures such as wearing masks and infection control when dealing with captive animals.
The research has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Viruses.