For the first time in the world, preliminary research indicates that deer may be able to transmit the COVID-19 virus to humans, following an analysis by a team of Canadian scientists monitoring the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in animals.
So far, researchers have only found evidence that humans spread the virus to deer, and deer transmit it to other deer.
New evidence that the virus may be able to spill from deer to humans is an important development, as scientists closely track whether wild animals can become a source of new variants and act as a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2.
However, humans remain the main source of the virus and its spread around the world.
The new research paper It was published Friday on bioRxiv, an archiving and online distribution service for unpublished advance publications in the life sciences, which has not been peer-reviewed.
The findings come from the work of a team of scientists who collaborated to analyze samples from hundreds of deer killed by poachers in the fall of 2021 in southwestern Ontario.
In their analysis, the scientists discovered a highly variable strain of SARS-CoV-2 – which basically means a group of viruses with a lot of mutations.
At about the same time, a genetically identical version of the virus was identified in a person from the same region of Ontario who had recently been in contact with deer.
These were all sampled from southwestern and eastern Ontario with the help of fishermen. We found 17/298 deer samples positive for SARS-CoV-2 (all from southwestern Ontario) via nasal swabs and lymph node samples (carefully checked for contamination)/2 pic.twitter.com/XNVsByaSsC
Finley Maguire, who collaborated on the research and helped analyze the genetic sequences, emphasized the fact that there are no other cases in humans.
“This particular case, while raising a red flag, doesn’t seem very concerning,” Maguire said in an interview.
He said their conclusions stem from strong circumstantial evidence.
“While we haven’t seen [transmission from deer to human] Speaking directly, we sampled the human condition about the same time we sampled deer, and we sampled around the same location,” McGuire said. There is also a plausible link through which it may occur, in that the individual involved is known to have had significant contact with the deer.”
The research points to the need for better surveillance of the COVID-19 virus — not only in humans, but also in animals, plants and the broader environment, said Maguire, associate professor at Dalhousie University and chief of the joint hospital’s nurse bioinformatics department. Laboratory in Toronto.
The need for better monitoring
It’s unclear how the deer contracted the virus in the first place, which is one reason McGuire and others say more monitoring is needed.
It can be transmitted from humans directly, or through sewage or an intermediate host animal, such as a mink.
Together, this indicates the presence of a virus that diverged undetected over 1-2 years (likely related to deer). Given the potential for deer-to-human transmission, it is important that we evaluate potential reservoirs and adopt a single health approach in SARS-CoV-2 surveillance. /End pic.twitter.com/8mILYJtiMu
Samira Mubaraka, an infectious disease physician and virologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, spoke to CBC and said the version of the virus they found was different from what is circulating now.
“It’s not closely related to Delta or Omicron. The most recent relative was way back in 2020.”
This means that it took time for the divergent lineage to mutate, said Mubarak, one of the authors of the paper.
“It’s reassuring that we haven’t found any evidence of further transmission, during a time when we were doing a lot of sampling and a lot of sequencing,” said Mubarica, a microbiologist and clinical scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center.
“If we continue to do this monitoring, we’ll get a much better idea of the actual risks.”
Previously, the only other known cases of animal-to-human transmission were in farmed mink. There are also some Initial research from Hong Kong This suggests that the virus may be able to spread from hamsters to humans.
Hunters must be careful
For most people, the risk of contracting the virus from a human is much higher than from contracting it from a deer.
Public Health Canada (PHAC) said there is no evidence that animals play a large role in the current spread of COVID-19 and that animal-to-human transmission is rare, but Agency warns fishermen to be careful.
Hunters and people who handle wild deer are advised to wash their hands regularly, and to wear gloves, goggles and a well-groomed mask when there is a possibility of exposure to respiratory tissues and fluids, especially indoors.
Coronaviruses are killed by normal cooking temperatures and there is no evidence that cooked venison can spread the COVID-19 virus.
PHAC said that scientists from the National Microbiology Laboratory reviewed the results of the research paper and confirmed that the genetic similarities indicate the possibility of transmission from a deer to a human in this case.
“Based on the information available to date, there is no sign of additional human infections with this unique sequence, as this only human case has been identified,” a statement from the Primary Health Care Center said.
Routine genomic monitoring for positive PCR will continue [polymerase chain reaction] Test results for unusual variations of the virus in Canada, including this virus. “