Deer are ‘frequently infected’ by COVID, new study finds

·1 min read

A newly released study suggests white-tailed deer are “highly susceptible” to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which could pose prolonged problems amid the pandemic.

Samples taken from 360 white-tailed deer across nine different areas in northeast Ohio early last year found six instances in which a strain of the virus was transmitted to one of the animals from humans, experts said in the study, which was shared on Nature.com.

Each of the samples were taken between January and March of 2021, when cases of COVID-19 were surging in the United States, the study says.

The research found that about a third of the deer that were sampled had either been infected recently by a strain of the virus or were dealing with an active case.

“Our finding that white-tailed deer are frequently infected with SARS-CoV-2 viruses raises profound questions about the future trajectory of SARS-CoV-2,” the study says.

“The potential establishment of a new reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 viruses in white-tailed deer could open new pathways for evolution, transmission to other wildlife species, and potential spillback of novel variants to humans that our immune system has not seen before.”

The cases included “probable deer-to-deer transmission,” the study said. The experts noted there weren’t any instances of the “spillback” to humans detected during that study.

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