The discovery of Omicron in white-tailed deer in New York, USA has raised concerns that this animal may become the host of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2.
According to a study by scientists at Pennsylvania State University, blood and body fluids collected from 131 deer on Staten Island, New York showed that nearly 15% of deer had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. These findings suggest that these animals may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and are susceptible to repeated re-infection with new strains, experts say.
“The circulation of viruses in animal populations always increases the likelihood of infecting humans, but more importantly, it creates more opportunities for the virus to evolve into new strains,” said Suresh Kuchipudi, a microbiologist veterinary biologist at Pennsylvania State University.
“When the virus completely mutates, it can overcome the protection of current vaccines. Therefore, we will have to change the vaccine,” added expert Kuchipudi.
The discovery of Omicron in white-tailed deer in New York has raised concerns that the animal could become a host for a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 . There are about 30 million white-tailed deer in the United States.
This is the first time that the Omicron strain has been detected in wild animals, in the context of the Omicron wave that is still spreading in the US.
Although there is no evidence that animals transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans, according to the US Department of Agriculture, the majority of Covid-19 cases are reported in animals that come into close contact with humans. .
In August last year, the US government said it had detected the world’s first cases of wild deer with Covid-19 in Ohio, adding to the list of animals positive for SARS-CoV-2. This finding is based on fluid samples collected from deer months before the Omicron variant appeared.
Previously, the US had recorded cases of Covid-19 in animals including dogs, cats, tigers, lions, snow leopards, otters, gorillas and ferrets.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa last November. This strain is of concern because it contains more than 50 mutations, including more than 30 mutations in the spike protein, a structure that can affect the ability of the virus to spread or evade immunity.
Many strains of SARS-CoV-2 have been discovered in the past 2 years with different infectivity and virulence. However, only certain strains are thought to be more dangerous, have a higher mortality rate, or are more contagious.
Experts cannot predict what the next mutation will be and how it will affect the course of the pandemic. They are also uncertain whether the latter strains will cause milder illness and whether the current vaccine will still be highly effective.
Experts say new strains continue to appear, but that does not mean they will become more dangerous. The level of danger of the new strain will be determined after scientists begin to learn more about how they work.