We already know that felines can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Recently, though, endangered Asiatic lions in a zoo in India became ill with the delta variant of this virus. Nine lions showed signs of illness—a lack of appetite, nasal discharge, coughing—and were isolated. Unfortunately, two succumbed to the infection. In four of the lions, the viral genome sequences matched those of a human SARS-CoV-2 patient in the area.
Seven of the lions lived in a major habitat area with shared resources, while two were in a display area that had a shared moat.
Researchers feel that the shared areas and possibilities for physical contact suggest that there were opportunities for lion-to-lion transmission. The zoo was closed to the public.
Mishra et al. Natural infection of SARS-CoV-2 delta variant in Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) in India. bioRxiv, 2021.