The CoVERS study seeks to understand SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 transmission between humans and animals. The study is run by the Runstadler Lab at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. We are rolling out core projects to rapidly respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CoVERS umbrella includes projects in four intersecting domains to understand how animals are affected by SARS-CoV-2: domestic animals (companion and farm), wildlife, animal workers (domestic, wildlife and zoo) and animal owners.

In domestic animals, owners and animals often have very close interactions, offering insights into if and how the virus can jump between species. We are also concerned about the potential for natural transmission into wildlife species that could establish regional reservoirs and prolong the pandemic or harm threatened and endangered species. Animal workers, such as wildlife rehabilitators or zookeepers, are key to understanding exposure events in understudied species, and provide important information about occupational risk.

How common is human-to-animal transmission?

CoVERS seeks to understand if spread from humans to animals is a common or very rare event in household settings. Households offer a unique place to investigate this given the daily contact between owners and animals in the same living quarters. Animal owners will be recruited to join one of two studies to investigate the potential for human to animal spread within the home. These 1-2 week studies will allow us to study in detail the rate of human to animal transmission, conditions that facilitate transmission, and gain insights into duration of viral presence and clinical symptom presence and severity.

Animal household study (click here)

Participants are eligible if:
a) they own one or more mammalian species (e.g. cat, ferret, dog, pig, cow) and
b) they live in the New England region of the US

The general public and Tufts veterinary clients are welcome to participate. Participants will be enrolled online, fill out a short questionnaire and receive supplies and instructions for swabbing their animal(s). Participants will be asked to collect swabs every two days for 1-2 weeks. We will organize shipping/collection of samples for testing in our lab. If you are interested to collect samples from animals in your home, please consider joining the study!


Paired animal & human household study (click here)

Participants are eligible if:
a) they own one or more mammalian species (e.g. cat, ferret, dog, pig, cow), and
b) they live in the New England region of the US
, and
c) they or their animal have recently tested positive show symptoms of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 or had a high exposure risk from March – May 2020 (e.g. healthcare worker)

The general public and Tufts veterinary clients are welcome to participate. Participants will be enrolled online, fill out a questionnaire and receive supplies and instructions for collecting samples from both themselves and their animal(s). Participants will be asked to collect swabs or saliva every two days for 1-2 weeks. We will organize shipping/collection of samples for testing in our lab. If you are interested in collecting samples from yourself and animals in your home, and you meet our eligibility criteria, please consider joining the study!


Which animals can get SARS-CoV-2?

CoVERS is currently running a rapid response surveillance effort of animals being seen for emergency care at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, including patients of the Henry & Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, the Hospital for Large Animals, and Tufts at Tech community veterinary clinic. All pets, domestic and farm species are welcome! Owners can join the study during a visit to the clinic and veterinary personnel will collect nasal and oral swabs from their animals. The swabbing is quick and harmless and samples will be tested in our lab. These results are research-grade only and cannot be used for clinical diagnosis. This study will give us a better understanding of which pets, companion or farm species can be infected with SARS-CoV-2. If your animal is a patient at Tufts Veterinary facilities, please consider joining the study!

Can SARS-CoV-2 infect and spread among wildlife?

As a wildlife surveillance lab, we are especially interested in understanding if wildlife species are at risk. To learn more about why wildlife are an important part of CoVERS, read our blog post on the topic.

To evaluate the risk of natural transmission into species of concern, we are actively recruiting US State Fish and Wildlife departments and wildlife rehabilitators of mammalian species, especially bats and mustelids, for ongoing surveillance of animals and caretakers in these close human-wildlife spaces. If you are a licensed rehabilitator or wildlife official and would like to learn more or join the study, please send us an email.