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Research Project: Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, and Control Measures for Rift Valley Fever

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Title: Infection and transmission of ancestral SARS-CoV-2 and its alpha variant in pregnant white-tailed deer

item COOL, KONNER - Kansas State University
item GAUDREAULT, NATASHA - Kansas State University
item MOROZOV, IGOR - Kansas State University
item TRUJILLO, JESSIE - Kansas State University
item MEEKINS, DAVID - Kansas State University
item MCDOWELL, CHESTER - Kansas State University
item CAROSSINO, MARIANO - Louisiana State University
item BOLD, DASHZEVEG - Kansas State University
item Mitzel, Dana
item KWON, TAEYONG - Kansas State University
item BALARAMAN, VELMURUGAN - Kansas State University
item MADDEN, DANIEL - Kansas State University
item ARTIAGA, BIANCA - Kansas State University
item POGRANICHNIY, ROMAN - Kansas State University
item SOSA, GLYDER - Kansas State University
item HENNINGSON, JAMIE - Kansas State University
item Wilson, William - Bill
item BALASURIYA, UDENI - Louisiana State University
item GARCIA-SASTRE, ADOLFO - The Icahn School Of Medicine At Mount Sinai
item RICHT, JUERGEN - Kansas State University

Submitted to: Emerging Microbes & Infections
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/25/2021
Publication Date: 11/29/2021
Citation: Cool, K., Gaudreault, N.N., Morozov, I., Trujillo, J.D., Meekins, D., Mcdowell, C., Carossino, M., Bold, D., Mitzel, D.N., Kwon, T., Balaraman, V., Madden, D.W., Artiaga, B.L., Pogranichniy, R.M., Sosa, G.S., Henningson, J., Wilson, W.C., Balasuriya, U.B., Garcia-Sastre, A., Richt, J.A. 2021. Infection and transmission of ancestral SARS-CoV-2 and its alpha variant in pregnant white-tailed deer. Emerging Microbes & Infections. 11(1):95-112.

Interpretive Summary: The ongoing worldwide pandemic, COVID-19, is caused by a novel virus called SARS-CoV-2. Related viruses have previously been found to involve other host to maintain the virus (reservoir hosts). The potential of white-tailed deer has previously been reported. In this study, it was shown that a variant of concern (alpha variant) replicated better than an original virus lineage in infection of adult white-tailed deer. It was also demonstrated that the virus was transmitted to naive contact deer and from doe to fetus. This study provides insight into the potential role of white-tailed deer in the epidemiology of COVID-19.

Technical Abstract: SARS-CoV-2, a novel Betacoronavirus, was first reported circulating in human populations in December 2019, and has since become a global pandemic. Recent history involving SARS-like coronavirus outbreaks (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) have demonstrated the significant role of intermediate and reservoir hosts in viral maintenance and transmission cycles. Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 natural infection and experimental infections of a wide-variety of animal species has been demonstrated, and in silico and in vitro studies have indicated that deer are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are amongst the most abundant, densely populated, and geographically widespread wild ruminant species in the United States. Human interaction with white-tailed deer have resulted in the occurrence of disease in human populations in the past. Recently, white-tailed deer fawns were shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. In the present study, we investigated the susceptibility and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in adult white-tailed deer. In addition, we examined the competition of two SARS-CoV-2 isolates, representatives of the ancestral lineage A (SARS-CoV-2/human/USA/WA01/2020) and the alpha variant of concern (VOC) B.1.1.7 (SARS-CoV-2/human/USA/CA_CDC_5574/2020), through coinfection of white-tailed deer. Next generation sequencing was used to determine the presence and transmission of each strain in the co-infected and contact sentinel animals. Our results demonstrate that adult white-tailed deer are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and can transmit the virus through direct contact as well as vertically from doe to fetus. Additionally, we determined that the alpha VOC B.1.1.7 isolate of SARS-CoV-2 outcompetes the ancestral lineage A isolate in white-tailed deer, as demonstrated by the genome of the virus shed from nasal and oral cavities from principal infected and contact animals, and from virus present in tissues of principal infected deer, fetuses and contact animals.