Researchers present the first potential evidence of deer-to-human COVID-19 transmission
Researchers present the first potential evidence of deer-to-human COVID-19 transmission

Researchers present the first potential evidence of deer-to-human COVID-19 transmission

Researchers believe they have documented the first case of a human being who received COVID-19 from white-tailed deer in Ontario, Canada, according to results published Feb. 25 on the preprint server BioRxiv.

The study involved analysis of nasal swabs and lymph node samples taken from white-tailed deer in southwestern and eastern Ontario hunted between November 1 and December 31. Researchers found that 17 out of 298 deer were positive for a “new and very divergent pedigree of SARS-CoV-2.”

After comparing the virus strain found in the deer with the virus strain found in humans in the region, “we also identified a single human case that was very similar to our deer samples and came from the same time frame and region as the deer samples”, Finlay Maguire, PhD, study author and assistant Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, tweeted February 26th.

Dr. Maguire added that having so few samples made it difficult to fully understand the relationship between the genomes, but the “spatiotemporal connection and known close contact with deer means that this presents a potential deer-to-human transmission event.”

So far, there has been no evidence of further human cases related to the strain, and available data indicated that the variant was unlikely to escape vaccines, researchers said.

“Together, our results represent the first evidence of a very divergent lineage of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer and transmission from deer to humans,” the researchers concluded.

Health experts in the United States have expressed concern over the possibility that deer antlers may become a reservoir for the virus to mutate and spread to other animals or back to humans in the form of a new variant. Separately for the time being fund published Feb. 7 found white-tailed deer on New York’s Staten Island infected with omicron, the first time the strain had been detected in wildlife in the United States. There are still a number of unanswered questions around virus spread among deersuch as how they contract the virus and how the pathogen can mutate inside the host.


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