Susceptibility of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to SARS-CoV-2

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Susceptibility of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to SARS-CoV-2

Added 16 June 2021

Palmer, M.V. et al (2021) Susceptibility of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to SARS-CoV-2. Journal of Virology, 95 (11), no. e00083-21.

This paper reports on the susceptibility of deer to SARS-CoV-2 infection through the demonstration of infection and replication of the virus in deer lung cells and experimental infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in white tailed deer.

Six-week-old fawns (n = 4) were inoculated intranasally with virus and two further fawns were maintained as non-inoculated contacts in the same room. The inoculated and indirect contact animals were kept in separate pens divided by a plexiglass barrier to prevent direct nose-to-nose contact. Following inoculation, animals were monitored daily for clinical signs and body temperature. No clinical signs of overt respiratory distress were observed in any of the inoculated or contact animals during the 21-day experimental period, although a slight and transient increase in body temperature was noted in 3 out of 4 fawns between days 1 to 3 post-inoculation (p.i.). The body temperature in both indirect contact animals remained within the normal range throughout.

Nasal and rectal swabs were collected on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14, and 21 p.i.; and blood was collected on days 0, 7, 14, and 21 p.i.

The authors reported that intranasal inoculation of deer fawns with SARS-CoV-2 resulted in established subclinical viral infection and shedding of infectious virus in nasal secretions; that infected animals transmitted the virus to non-inoculated contact deer; and that viral RNA was detected in multiple tissues 21 days post-inoculation (p.i.). All inoculated and indirect contact animals seroconverted and developed neutralizing antibodies as early as day 7 p.i.

The authors conclude that findings support the inclusion of wild cervid species in investigations conducted to assess potential reservoirs or sources of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Please also see study: SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in free-ranging white tailed deer [published 6 August 2021]

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