Researchers investigating the origins and transmission of the deadly COVID-19 virus have recently identified numerous cases of the virus in white-tailed deer in Ohio, United States.
Scientists at Ohio State University have discovered that the virus is continuing to spread among animals and re-emerge in humans, and its genetic makeup is undergoing rapid evolution.
According to a paper published in Nature Communications, scientists collected 1,522 nasal swabs from free-ranging deer in Ohio between November 2021 and March 2022, tested those swabs, and found more than 10% of the samples were infected with coronavirus. Through genetic material analysis of the virus, the researchers determined that a minimum of 30 of these infections in deer had been transmitted from humans.
“We really don’t understand what the interface is,” said Andrew Bowman, an associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University. His research team investigated the presence of the COVID-19 virus in deer populations in Ohio.
According to a report by Time, deer don’t get sick from SARS-CoV-2 as humans do, and Mr Bowman’s analysis showed that deer can carry SARS-CoV-2 for as long as six to nine months, which may explain how it spreads from animal to animal. And if deer are a significant reservoir for the virus, it could pose a threat to people since the deer give SARS-CoV-2 another opportunity to replicate and generate mutations.
This finding implies that the occurrence of the virus spillover between humans and animals is more frequent than initially assumed, emphasising the necessity of sustained vigilance and response efforts to bring the COVID-19 virus under control worldwide.