Coronavirus spillover from humans to animals likely

Previous research suggested humans had transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to wild white-tailed deer. Recent research suggests similar transmissions are happening with various species around the world.

Recent research backs the notion that humans have transmitted the virus that causes COVID-19 to animals around the world, raising concerns that animals could serve as a reservoir for the virus.

“Spillover and spillback of SARS-CoV-2 has been proved,” said the authors of a study in PLoS ONE. Researchers analyzed genome sequences of strains of the virus in a variety of animals around the world, including dogs, cats and lions. They also looked at related viruses in bats and pangolins. They found that strains found in animals are similar to strains found in humans in the same regions—including Germany, France, Spain and Denmark. “We need to apply the One Health approach to secure a healthier future for the world,” said the researchers, who are calling for continued genetic monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in animals.

In another recent study published in Nature, scientists have detected infection by at least three variants of SARS-CoV-2 in free-ranging white-tailed deer in six northeast Ohio locations. Based on genomic sequencing, researchers determined the variants matched strains that had been prevalent in Ohio COVID-19 patients at the time. The team is testing more samples to check for new variants as well as older variants, whose continued presence would suggest the virus can set up shop and survive in this species.

The fact that wild deer can become infected “leads toward the idea that we might actually have established a new maintenance host outside humans,” said Andrew Bowman, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University and senior author of the paper.