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Infections Found Among Deer

A new study has found that many deer in Iowa are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports. It adds that the deer likely acquired the virus from humans, though it is unclear how.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and elsewhere collected samples from 283 Iowa deer between November 23, 2020 and January 10, 2021 for testing and analysis. As they report in a preprint posted to BioRxiv, they found a dozen different SARS-CoV-2 lineages among the deer sampled mirroring those circulating in the human population, suggesting the virus was introduced into the deer multiple times.

A previous analysis, also posted to BioRxiv, had found that about a third of white-tailed deer in the US carried antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. As the Times notes, that study only indicated deer were exposed to the virus, while the new one suggests deer are infected.

It adds that the findings have raised concerns that deer or other animals humans come into contact with could become reservoirs for the virus. "If deer can transmit the virus to humans, it's a game changer," Tony Goldberg from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tells the Times. "To have a wildlife species become a reservoir after transmission from humans is very rare and unlucky, as if we needed more bad luck."

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