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Clin Infect Dis ; 2022 Mar 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1852993


BACKGROUND: SARS-CoV-2 can infect human and other mammals, including hamsters. Syrian (Mesocricetus auratus) and dwarf (Phodopus sp.) hamsters are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection in the laboratory setting. However, pet shop-related COVID-19 outbreaks have not been reported. METHODS: We conducted an investigation of a pet shop-related COVID-19 outbreak due to Delta variant AY.127 involving at least three patients in Hong Kong. We tested samples collected from the patients, environment, and hamsters linked to this outbreak and performed whole genome sequencing analysis of the RT-PCR-positive samples. RESULTS: The patients included a pet shop keeper (Patient 1), a female customer of the pet shop (Patient 2), and the husband of Patient 2 (Patient 3). Investigation showed that 17.2% (5/29) and 25.5% (13/51) environmental specimens collected from the pet shop and its related warehouse, respectively, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR. Among euthanized hamsters randomly collected from the storehouse, 3% (3/100) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR and seropositive for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody by ELISA. Whole genome analysis showed that although all genomes from the outbreak belonged to the Delta variant AY.127, there were at least 3 nucleotide differences among the genomes from different patients and the hamster cages. Genomic analysis suggests that multiple strains have emerged within the hamster population, and these different strains have likely transmitted to human either via direct contact or via the environment. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrated probable hamster-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. As pet trading is common around the world, this can represent a route of international spread of this pandemic virus.