Have you ever wondered how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, behaves in animal populations? A new study reveals that variations of the virus that have not been detected in humans for some time are still going strong in white-tailed deer. Read on to learn more about the fascinating findings of this research!

The study, published in PNAS, was based on 5,462 existing samples of deer lymph tissue, collected as part of an investigation into chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer. The samples were gathered across 2020 and 2021, and with useful data attached about when and where they were collected, plus the age and sex of each deer.

The research team was able to identify hotspots where SARS-CoV-2 was particularly active. Multiple clusters were shown to exist based exclusively around particular variants: Alpha, Gamma, or Delta. The team was also able to identify as many as 80 mutations in some of the virus variants, indicating that this wasn’t a short-term visit.

These mutations potentially make it easier for SARS-CoV-2 to pass to other animals, and perhaps even back to humans. It’s possible that these animals are acting as long-term reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2 variants.

So far, there’s only one reported case of a deer passing COVID-19 on to a person, so we’re still far more likely to catch it from a fellow human being. However, it’s not clear exactly how the infection made its way into deer in the first place, though it will be because of some kind of contact with humans.

The findings of this research are truly fascinating and illustrate the complexity of the virus and its behavior in animal populations. It’s important to understand how the virus behaves in different environments in order to be able to prevent and contain its spread.

Source: www.sciencealert.com