Eight Asian lions at Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, possibly the first known case of a human infecting the feline and making it sick in India.

Well-placed sources at the zoo recounted The Hindu that the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) informed the forestry authorities by telephone that the RT-PCR tests of these big cats were positive. However, samples of CCMB were taken from the affected animals but confirmation will take a few days.

The CCMB will conduct a detailed investigation of the samples for genome sequencing to find out whether the strain was from humans or not.

The scientist warned officials to take precautions and start treatment at the earliest. The zoo authorities are likely to perform a scan of the lions to find out the impact of the infection on their lungs.

Zoo director and curator Dr Siddhanand Kukrety and VVL Subhadra Devi, respectively, did not respond to repeated calls from this correspondent to officially deny or confirm the news.

However, another source at the 380-acre campus, which is home to more than 1,500 inmates, said the CCMB results would be submitted to Ms. Subhadra Devi within an hour or two, and to alert them, the scientists orally told the superior. . on the results.

“Yes, the lions were tested after showing mild symptoms. At the moment, they are active and doing well, ”the officer said, adding that four male and four female felines were housed in the 40-acre Safari area.

He said on April 24, wardens noticed the big cats developing symptoms such as a dry cough, runny nose and loss of appetite and quickly alerted the veterinary team. Soon, vets took oropharyngeal swab samples from the feline and sent them to CCMB, where scientists are likely to do genome sequencing to find out if the strain came from humans.

Currently, NZP, one of the largest zoos in Asia, is closed to visitors as a precaution. More than two dozen zoo staff have tested positive for the virus.