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Staten Island Deer Harbor Omicron

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected among white-tailed deer on Staten Island, the New York Times reports.

Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections has previously been found in deer across the northern US. In Iowa, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found similar SARS-CoV-2 lineages circulating in deer as in the human population, suggesting that people could pass the virus to deer and possibly the reverse.

The same Penn State team has now examined SARS-CoV-2 among 131 deer sampled from Staten Island. As they report in BioRxiv, the researchers found that 19 of the deer had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and seven deer had positive nasal swabs for SARS-CoV-2. Sequencing analysis further indicated that at least four deer harbored the Omicron variant, which similar to Omicron lineage circulating in the city.

This, study author Vivek Kapur from Penn State tells the Times, indicates ongoing spillover.

"You can imagine this could be a never-ending, perpetual cycle of deer constantly circulating the virus among themselves and picking up the new variants," adds Penn State's Suresh Kuchipudi at the Times.

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