Deer-to-Human COVID-19 Transmission

According to a new study, the first potential case of the novel coronavirus being passed to a person from a deer has been reported in Canada.

Overview:

  • Highly mutated clusters of SARS-CoV-2 genomes were identified by researchers in white-tailed deer, indicating that the deer could act as an animal virus reservoir.
  • To conduct the study, researchers analyzed 300 samples which were collected from white-tailed deer in Eastern and Southwestern Ontario in November and December 2021. 17 of the deer in Southwestern Ontario showed a positive result for SARS-CoV-2.
  • A highly divergent and new lineage of SARS-CoV-2 was identified by researchers when they sequenced the genomes from five of the virus samples.
  • When compared to the original virus discovered in Wuhan, China, this lineage contained 76 mutations. Further research suggests the lineage has been evolving in animals since late 2020.
  • Although previous research has shown that COVID-19 can be transmitted transmit from humans to deer and within the deer population, this is the first evidence of deer-to-human transmission.

How was the transmission identified?

The researchers compared the viral genomes discovered in deer to those discovered in nearby humans. A person was identified to have been infected with a SARS-CoV-2 strain that was genetically similar.

This person lived in Southwestern Ontario and had previous close contact with deer, thus it’s possible that a deer, in this case, transmitted the virus to the person. However, due to a lack of data, the researchers couldn’t definitively link the human and deer case. With no other evidence of other human cases from this lineage, so far, this seems to be an isolated case.

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