AUG 09, 2021 6:42 AM PDT

SARS-CoV-2 Detected in Wild Deer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Wildlife management officials check wild populations for pathogenic disease like chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis. So researchers with national agencies like the National Wildlife Research Center were able to access those samples to see whether there was any indication that wild deer had come into contact with the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold particles) emerging from the surface of a cell cultured in the lab. Image captured and colorized at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. / Credit: NIAID

Scientists identified SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in 40 percent of samples that had been obtained from populations of wild white-tailed deer in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York in 2021. There were 385 samples taken that year. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were found in three samples taken in 2020, and one in 2019. There was no evidence of the virus in samples taken from 2011 through 2018; there were 239 samples that were selected to represent this period.

The researchers also noted, however, that while the levels of these antibodies were thought to be high enough to indicate the presence of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, that was not confirmed directly.

The study authors also checked for cross reactivity, which appears to show that the tests do specifically indicate antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 and not other human coronaviruses. There was no cross-reactivity for MERS or SARS, for example.

This work has been reported as a pre-print in bioRxiv, and has not yet been peer-reviewed. The study is primarily a straightforward report of laboratory findings.

Zoonotic diseases are those that are passed from animals to humans. In reverse zoonosis, humans pass a pathogen back to an animal species. Reverse zoonosis has been observed before this; for example, researchers found that during the 2009-2010 season, the novel pH1N1 influenza had been passed from humans to their companion animals.

While research has shown that people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 also passed the virus directly to mink living on farms, there is no conclusive explanation for how the virus got from humans to wild deer. In this study, the researchers proposed several potential routes; hunting, work involving field studies, animal rehabilitation, or conservation research, and food could potentially bring wild deer and people into direct contact. Wildlife may have also come into contact with a contaminated water source, though there is no definitive evidence yet that SARS-CoV-2 can spread through water. It's also possible that wild deer acquired the virus from other animals.

The researchers suggested that officials should begin to conduct more surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife, including deer and animals that interact with deer.

We can't know how a virus will mutate if it continues to move through different species. Some mutations may cause a virus to die out while others can make it more virulent. It's probably best not to find out what happens on such an evolutionary path.

Sources: Science Magazine, bioRxiv

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Sequencing and Identifying SARS-CoV-2 Variants Efficiently
JUN 01, 2021
Sequencing and Identifying SARS-CoV-2 Variants Efficiently
  Viral surveillance can give researchers vital information about virus origins, transmission routes, affected popu ...
AUG 10, 2021
Immunology
A Tapeworm Drug as a COVID Antiviral?
AUG 10, 2021
A Tapeworm Drug as a COVID Antiviral?
A study by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute looking into potential COVID-19 medications has revealed a surp ...
AUG 10, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
New CRISPR Device Diagnoses COVID in an Hour, Detects Variants
AUG 10, 2021
New CRISPR Device Diagnoses COVID in an Hour, Detects Variants
A team of engineers from MIT and Harvard University has developed a COVID diagnostic device with a tiny footprint but hu ...
AUG 31, 2021
Immunology
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 Doesn't Work
AUG 31, 2021
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 Doesn't Work
After encountering an infectious agent, the immune system begins churning out antibodies—Y-shaped warriors that ne ...
AUG 31, 2021
Health & Medicine
People Who Have Had SARS-CoV-2 Infection Have Longer-Lasting Immunity Than Those Who Were Vaccinated Only
AUG 31, 2021
People Who Have Had SARS-CoV-2 Infection Have Longer-Lasting Immunity Than Those Who Were Vaccinated Only
Consider yourself among the luckiest if you made a full recovery from infection with SARS-CoV-2, especially if you were ...
OCT 19, 2021
Immunology
Mild COVID Produces Better Than Expected Antibody Responses
OCT 19, 2021
Mild COVID Produces Better Than Expected Antibody Responses
Over millions of years, the immune system has evolved to shield us against disease-causing pathogens that we encounter e ...
Loading Comments...