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A subsidiary of Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories is in the early stages of producing a coronavirus test for humans.
The company announced the development Monday morning as it also moves to market another test for pets.
IDEXX said that its subsidiary, Georgia-based Opti Medical Systems, has validated a polymerase chain reaction test for humans, which will initially be available on a limited basis to its existing customers already engaged in coronavirus testing. PCR is a method that rapidly makes thousands of copies of a DNA sample.
Starting this week, IDEXX is making available a coronavirus test for pets after growing demand for them. They will initially be available in North America and then become available across the globe in the coming weeks, according to the company.
So far, there’s no evidence to suggest cats and dogs can pass the coronavirus onto humans, according to the World Health Organization, but reports in recent weeks have linked infected pets with owners who have tested positive. Such cases, though, have been very rare. There have been at least four reports of pets testing positive for the coronavirus: a cat in Belgium in late March, another cat in Hong Kong in late March, a German shepherd in Hong Kong in mid-March and a Pomeranian in Hong Kong in February.
“We have continued to monitor the rapidly evolving public health crisis worldwide, paying special attention to the effects on pets,” said Jay Mazelsky, president and CEO of IDEXX. “While there is currently no evidence that dogs or cats play a role in transmitting the disease to humans, it became clear offering the test was the right thing to do when we saw clinical evidence that pets — especially cats and ferrets — can in rare cases be at risk for infection. And, we heard from our customers around the globe that veterinarians needed a testing option.”
Since mid-February, IDEXX has tested specimens from more than 5,000 animals from 17 countries for the coronavirus, and none came back positive, according to the company.
“This suggests dogs and cats living with infected people generally remain uninfected, except in rare and isolated cases,” the company said.
The test for pets is recommended only for those animals living with a human who has tested positive, showing signs of coronavirus symptoms and have been tested for other common infections, which a veterinarian has ruled out. IDEXX recommends against testing asymptomatic pets.