WSU laboratory begins testing animals for COVID-19

Wsu Waddl Lab

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) on Washington State University’s campus has begun testing animals for COVID-19.

The tests are currently only for academic institutions and certain agencies, using a testing process known as “real time polymerase chain reaction” (RT-PCR).

The RT-PCR test transforms small amounts of the virus’ RNA—ribonucleic acid, which is where coronaviruses carry their genetic information, rather than DNA—into large amounts of DNA, which can be detected by special equipment.

WADDL says the test can definitively identify if the subject has COVID-19, but does not determine whether the virus is alive or dead.

According to WSU, the lab has tested two cats, both of whom tested negative for the coronavirus.

The first cat had died of common feline heart disease, but lived with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Several tests of tissue and feces revealed the cat did not have the virus. The second cat was alive, and also living with a patient confirmed with COVID-19. Nasal and throat swabs of this cat tested negative.

WADDL is currently carrying out these tests at the request of federal, state and local health agencies, and they say an important goal of the testing is to put together scientific data on the nature of the virus.

In a 2003 study, domestic cats and ferrets could be infected with SARS, a coronavirus similar to COVID-19. Disease experts are hoping to learn if this is a possibility with COVID-19.