Deer identified as widespread carrier of coronavirus: study – New York Post

Yet another study of white-tailed deer suggests that the North American population is harboring widespread coronavirus infection.

As much as 80% of the 445,000-strong Iowa deer population may carry the disease, according to a new study, The Times reported on Tuesday.

That rate of infection was said to be “effectively 50 times” more pervasive in deer than Iowa’s human population.

The pre-print report, now awaiting review from scientific peers prior to publication, showed that deer may have picked up the virus from humans sometime during the testing period, between April 2020 and January 2021, though Penn State researchers are not clear as to how cross-transmission could have occurred.

Their samples were derived from both roadkill and deer felled by hunters. An analysis of their lymph nodes reflected a genomic sequencing that hinted the virus had first traveled through humans before infecting the deer.

Conversely, there is yet no evidence to suggest that humans have contracted the virus from deer.

However, the prevalence of coronavirus among animals may hamper efforts to eradicate the disease from nature — meaning that the elimination of COVID-19 in humans wouldn’t necessarily be enough to prevent another outbreak.

Researchers and Iowa wildlife officials are sounding the alarm, particularly for deer hunters and other animal handlers, warning them to take extreme precautions with the animal in nature.

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Researchers worry that animal populations could foster a more virulent strain of coronavirus over time, and potentially spread back to humans.
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A survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released in August indicated a high level of antibodies in deer throughout a number of states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan and New York — confirming they had been exposed to the virus at some point. The new report, however, confirms infection.

“It was effectively showing up in all parts of the state,” said Penn State research Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi. “We were dumbfounded.”

A spokesperson for the National Veterinary Services Laboratories verified the results of the new study to The Times.

It comes as no surprise that deer are susceptible to coronavirus as many other animals are proven conduits for the disease, including bats, cats, dogs, ferrets, monkeys and mink — the latter of which are known to become infected with SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness, by interacting with sickened human handlers, as well as pass that infection back to humans. As a result, millions in Denmark were culled to prevent further spread between species.

Fostered within animals populations, the virus could become stronger with time, scientists have said, leading to potentially new, aggressive strains.

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