Unveiling the COVID-19 Carrier: U.S. Initiative Targets Wild Animals in Search of Answers

May 02, 2024

The November 2023 action pertained to a longstanding state initiative to monitor the health of bighorn sheep, yet it also served a novel purpose. Samples from these animals were dispatched to Kurt Vandegrift, a disease ecologist at Pennsylvania State University renowned for overseeing one of the world's largest wildlife surveillance endeavors for SARS‐CoV‑2. 

This ambitious undertaking sought to comprehend the spread of the COVID-19-causing virus in North American wildlife and its potential evolutionary trajectory within animal hosts. Prompted by mounting evidence of the virus's prevalence in North American deer and its ability to infect various species, Vandegrift, along with virologist and veterinarian Suresh Kuchipudi from the University of Pittsburgh, and their collaborators, embarked on a mission to gather and scrutinize over 24,000 samples from 58 wildlife species over the ensuing two years. 

Their objective? To ascertain whether animals currently harbor SARS‐CoV‑2 or possess antibodies indicating prior exposure. This comprehensive investigation not only elucidates the threat posed by SARS‐CoV‑2 to wildlife but also underscores the risk of viral evolution leading to new variants capable of reintroducing outbreaks in human populations.

SOURCE: https://www.science.org/content/article/which-wild-animals-carry-covid-19-virus-ambitious-us-project-aims-find-out