Scientists find first possible case of COVID-19 transmission from deer to human

White-tailed deer have been known to contract SARS-CoV-2 from humans, but researchers recently discovered the first possible case of transmission from deer to a human. Credit: Alfonso Jr.

A new study in preprint reported the first potential case of a deer passing the novel coronavirus to a human. Researchers say they found no evidence of an elevated risk of humans, but they identified highly mutated clusters of the virus’s genomes, suggesting that deer could act as a reservoir for the virus.

The team analyzed 300 samples collected last November and December from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Ontario and found 17 deer tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Genome sequencing turned up what researchers called “a new and highly divergent lineage of SARS-CoV-2.” Researchers also found a person in the area infected with a similar infection. “Together, our findings represent the first evidence of a highly divergent lineage of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer and of deer-to-human transmission,” the authors wrote.

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