USDA grant explores COVID virus in wildlife

Researchers will test 58 species to monitor the potential for spillback to humans

A new U.S. Agriculture Department grant will fund researchers to test wildlife for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. The $4.5 million grant will allow researchers to collect samples from 58 species—chipmunks, squirrels, mice, moose (Alces alces), raccoons (Procyon lotor), wolverines (Gulo gulo), three deer species and several bat species—to monitor potential spillback to humans. 

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has already been documented in some wildlife in the U.S., including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Researchers worry that could lead to new variants that could reach humans as well as agricultural animals.

“Overall, our goal is to safeguard the health of humans, wildlife and agricultural systems,” said Kurt Vandegrift, associate research professor of biology at Penn State and principal investigator of the project.

Read more from Penn State.

Header Image: A new U.S. Agriculture Department grant is funding research into the presence of SARS-CoV-2 among 58 wildlife species, including moose. Credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS