40% of wild deer population in US exposed to coronavirus — report

Published August 6, 2021, 1:57 PM

by Xinhua

CANBERRA, Australia — In the northeast corner of the United States, a recent study found neutralizing antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 (responsible for COVID-19) in 40 percent of all white-tailed deer that were sampled, Australian scientific news website ScienceAlert reported on Wednesday.

Two white-tailed deer bucks seen at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware (AFP via Getty Images)

According to the preprint study published on bioRxiv, by silently harboring and spreading this pathogen, scientists worry deer populations are allowing SARS-CoV-2 to adapt and evolve into new strains — ones that could possibly re-infect humans years down the road with even greater transmissibility and severity than before.

White-tailed deer in the United States cross paths with humans a lot, whether through fieldwork, conservation work, feeding, hunting, or human wastewater, providing a perfect pathway for a virus to spread back and forth, the article quoted the study as saying.

“The geographic distribution of this species encompasses most of North America and these animals are particularly abundant near urban population centers located in the eastern United States,” the authors said.