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Modeling Predicts Animal SARS-CoV-2 Risk

A modeling analysis indicates some critically endangered animals could be at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, The Scientist reports.

A University of California, Davis-led team analyzed the ACE2 sequences of 410 vertebrate species, as SARS-CoV-2 relies on the host ACE2 receptor to invade. Through comparative genomic and protein structure analyses, the researchers gauged how well the viral spike protein could bind to the various animals' versions of ACE2. As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, the researchers found that animals including other primates like Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos were at very high risk of being capable of being infected by SARS-CoV-2. Animals like red pandas and house mice, meanwhile, are at very low risk, according to the researchers' analyses.

As The Scientist notes, some of these categorizations were expected, such as primates being high risk, but others were not anticipated, such as deer and muskrat being at high risk. According to the paper, 41 animals that scored as very high, high, or medium risk are considered to be vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species.

"Although in silico studies suggest potential susceptibility of diverse species, verification of infection potential is warranted, using cell cultures, stem cells, organoids, and other methods that do not require direct animal infection studies," the researchers note in their paper.