SARS-CoV-2 exposure in wild white-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus)

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Nov 23;118(47):e2114828118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2114828118.


Widespread human SARS-CoV-2 infections combined with human-wildlife interactions create the potential for reverse zoonosis from humans to wildlife. We targeted white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for serosurveillance based on evidence these deer have angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptors with high affinity for SARS-CoV-2, are permissive to infection, exhibit sustained viral shedding, can transmit to conspecifics, exhibit social behavior, and can be abundant near urban centers. We evaluated 624 prepandemic and postpandemic serum samples from wild deer from four US states for SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Antibodies were detected in 152 samples (40%) from 2021 using a surrogate virus neutralization test. A subset of samples tested with a SARS-CoV-2 virus neutralization test showed high concordance between tests. These data suggest white-tailed deer in the populations assessed have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; deer; wildlife disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / veterinary
  • Deer / virology*
  • Great Lakes Region / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies