One-third of white-tailed deer in the north-eastern part of the United States have developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, indicating they had been infected in one way or the other, according to a study.
Researchers analysed samples collected after the pandemic began in what could be the first detection of the virus in a wild animal population. They targeted white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, for sero surveillance based on evidence that these deer have receptors with a high affinity for SARS-CoV-2.
The study – published in yet to be peer-reviewed preprint on bioRxiv – states that antibodies were detected in 40 per cent of the samples. This suggests that white-tailed deer have been exposed to the virus.
“It’s an intriguing observation but still needs to be interpreted with caution,” Nature magazine quoted Aaron Irving, an infectious diseases researcher at Zhejiang University in Haining, China, as saying.
Previous experiments have shown that the deer can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and transmit the virus to other deer. The findings are raising concerns over the possibility of animal populations harbouring the SARS CoV-2 virus as reservoirs, even after humans are vaccinated. Researchers fear that these reservoirs of viruses could allow COVID-19 to spread to other species and back to people.
Researchers collected 385 blood samples from wildlife surveillance between January and March 2021, of which 152 samples showed the presence of antibodies. These samples were collected from regions of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York.
“Given the percentage of samples in this study that had detectable antibodies, as well as the high numbers of white-tailed deer throughout the United States and their close contact with people, it is likely that deer in other states have also been exposed to the virus,” Nature quoted a spokesperson for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as saying.
Two rare Sumatran tigers at a zoo in Indonesia are recovering after being infected with COVID-19.
Nine-year-old Tino became ill on July 9. Two days later, 12-year-old Hari was showing similar symptoms. The tigers were immediately treated with antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs and multivitamins. They were getting better after 10-12 days, and have now recovered under close observation at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo.
Close to home, eight Asiatic lions at Hyderabad’s Nehru Zoological Park had tested positive for COVID-19 as well. The symptoms subsided after the lions were put on medication for almost two weeks. Analyses of the samples revealed that the infection was not caused by any variant of concern.