ABSTRACT

Among the animal superfamily Musteloidea, which includes those commonly known as mustelids, naturally occurring and species-specific alphacoronavirus infections have been observed in both mink (Mustela vison/Neovison vison) and domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). Ferret systemic coronavirus (FRSCV), in particular, has been associated with a rare but fatal systemic disease. In recent months, it has become apparent that both minks and ferrets are susceptible to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a betacoronavirus and the cause of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several mink farms have experienced SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, and experimental models have demonstrated susceptibility of ferrets to SARS-CoV-2. The potential for pet ferrets to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, however, remains elusive. During the 2002–2003 SARS epidemic, it was also apparent that ferrets were susceptible to SARS-CoV and could be utilized in vaccine development. From a comparative standpoint, understanding the relationships between different infections and disease pathogenesis in the animal superfamily Musteloidea may help elucidate viral infection and transmission mechanisms, as well as treatment and prevention strategies for coronaviruses.

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