If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that science is ever-changing and evolving. From different restriction mandates to altering insights on mutations, it's been a scramble for the past two years to understand where the virus is headed next. And animals have certainly not been excluded from the struggles. According to new data, another animal might have joined the list of COVID patients but with a new twist...
The news broke from Ontario, Canada, where scientists were closely looking at a population of white-tailed deer in Canada. According to the findings in BioRxiv, over ten deer were found to be infected by the virus, and it presented with "mutations that had not been previously observed among SARS-CoV-2 lineages." As if that wasn't enough of a shock to the research team, the findings had an implication on the nearby human population as well. Someone who was found to be in close proximity to the infected deer actually presented the same unique variant! That signified a major breakthrough in the scientific community, who were more accustomed to seeing humans passing on the virus to animals, rather than the other way around.
Overall, the theory is as such: the virus circulated amongst the white-tailed deer and accumulated mutations before it made its way to its next two-legged victim in Ontario. But does this mean we need to consider wildlife a threat in pandemic terms? According to the director of the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at Kansas State University, no. He argued that the chances of catching the virus from a human remain far higher than catching it from a deer passing by. But that doesn't diminish the incredible feat of scientific research that led to the findings in the first place. The test, according to National Geographic, included 300 nose tissue samples from deer that had been killed by hunters between November and December 2021. A whopping six percent of the tested population were found to have the "new and highly divergent lineage" of the virus.
What's next? Well, researchers will begin to explore the idea of vaccinations and continued surveillance of the population. Until then, stay tuned for more scientific breakthroughs from the animal kingdom.