There are even more deer with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 than according to the results of the previous studies.
In 40% of the studied blood samples of white-tailed deer, American veterinarians found antibodies to a new type of coronavirus. The rediscovery of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in the body of deer indicates a potentially high vulnerability of these animals to SARS-CoV-2, the scientists write in an article in the electronic library bioRxiv.
A new type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can infect not only humans but also many other mammals. Among the latter are rhesus monkeys, minks, ferrets, and cats. The infection affects these animals almost as much as it affects humans. In populations of such animals, the virus can acquire new mutations and subsequently get to people, so scientists monitor whether SARS-CoV-2 can infect certain animals.
Recently, US National Wildlife Service specialists found traces of coronavirus infection in several white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Veterinarians collected animal blood samples last year. Biologists led by their colleague Susan Schreiner continued these studies. They studied 385 blood samples of white-tailed deer collected in the first half of 2021 and compared them with 239 blood samples collected earlier – from 2011 to 2020.
It turned out that 152 (~40%) fresh blood samples of Odocoileus virginianus had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, in a significant part of the deer, their concentration was so high that it was possible to conclude not about accidental contact with the pathogen but the transferred COVID-19.
Compared with the results of the analysis of earlier samples, there are more carriers of antibodies among deer. Scientists can not yet say why this happened. Also, veterinarians can not yet determine exactly how the coronavirus could have entered the populations of Odocoileus virginianus from four different states of the northern United States that do not come into contact with people.
Schreiner and her colleagues hope that the answers to these and other important questions will be found in further research. For example, information about how likely new outbreaks of coronavirus infection are among ungulates and the typical severity of its symptoms is critically important for understanding whether white-tailed deer and their closest relatives will become a reservoir for new varieties of the virus, the researchers concluded.
It should be added that the scientists ‘ article was not reviewed by independent experts and not checked by the editors of scientific journals, as is usually the case in such cases. Therefore, the conclusions from it and similar articles should be treated carefully.