SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in free-ranging white tailed deer

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SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in free-ranging white tailed deer

Published 6 August 2021

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (2021) Surveillance Data Shows White-Tailed Deer Exposed to SARS-CoV-2 [online] Available from: [Accessed 6 August 2021]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a report of a surveillance study that analysed serum samples from free ranging white-tailed deer for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

Samples were collected in 4 states (Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania) between January 2020 and January 2021. None of the deer populations surveyed showed signs of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2, and evidence of viral shedding was not undertaken. However, antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 33% of the 481 samples, indicating exposure. Concerns that the test, which has not yet been validated in deer, may have been cross reacting with anther virus, were addressed by retesting the samples using a test specific to SARS-CoV-2 and testing archived samples from before the pandemic.

The report states that the finding that wild white-tailed deer have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 is not unexpected given that white-tailed deer are susceptible to the virus, are abundant in the United States, often come into close contact with people, and that, more than 114 million Americans are estimated to have been infected with COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, this level of exposure raises significant questions about this risk of SARS -CoV-2 becoming established in wildlife, and further research is urgently needed.

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