Home / Science / Health /  Covid variants alpha, gamma, and delta found in deers; traces of mutation seen: Should you worry?

Covid variants of concern - alpha, gamma and delta - that were once widely circulated, but are no longer found in humans have been traced in white-tailed deers in North America. The scientist also cited that when they drew the sample from the deers, they found that the variant had mutated indicating that it had been circulating among these animals for quite some time. 

"One of the most striking findings of this study was the detection of co-circulation of three variants of concern - alpha, gamma and delta - in this wild animal population," said Diego Diel, associate professor at Cornell.

On how deers were infected, the study cited, over the course of the pandemic, deer have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 through ongoing contact with humans, possibly from hunting, wildlife rehabilitations, feeding of wild animals or through wastewater or water sources.

"A virus that emerged in humans in Asia, most likely after a spillover event from an animal reservoir into humans, apparently, or potentially, has now found a new wildlife reservoir in North America," Diel said.

The 5,700 samples used in the study were collected over two years in New York from 2020-22. It has been published in n the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Noting that the variants have been circulating among the deers, the study cited, "When we did sequence comparisons between those viruses recovered from white-tailed deer with the human sequences, we observed a significant number of mutations across the virus genome," Diel said, adding that some of the viruses had up to 80 mutations compared with the human sequences, providing further evidence that the viruses had likely been circulating in the deer for some time."

The mutations suggest the virus has adapted to deer, possibly making it more transmissible between them, the study said.

More study is needed to confirm whether these variants will disappear in deer over time or whether there is risk of SARS-CoV-2 spreading to other wildlife, including predators, the study said.

"Because of the evidence obtained in our study, it is very important to continue to monitor the virus in these animal populations to really understand and track changes that could lead or favour spill back into humans and other wildlife," Diel said.


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