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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Animal Disease Center » Infectious Bacterial Diseases Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #413149

Research Project: Diagnostic and Mitigation Strategies to Control Tuberculosis in Cattle and Wildlife

Location: Infectious Bacterial Diseases Research

Title: Persistence of viral RNA in North American elk experimentally infected with an ancestral variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Author
item Boggiatto, Paola
item Buckley, Alexandra
item Cassmann, Eric
item SEGER, HANNAH - Oak Ridge Institute For Science And Education (ORISE)
item Olsen, Steven
item Palmer, Mitchell

Submitted to: Scientific Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/6/2024
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: White-tailed deer have emerged as a potential reservoir host for SARS-CoV-2, serving as a source of infection for other animals and humans. Other free-ranging wildlife species may also serve as reservoir for the virus, and propagate the disease. The goal of this study was to determine the susceptibility of North American elk to experimental infection with SARS-CoV-2, to determine if another wide-ranging cervid species could potentially serve as a reservoir host for the virus. Here we demonstrate that while North American elk do not develop clinical signs of disease, they do develop a neutralizing antibody response to infection, suggesting the virus is capable of replicating in this mammalian host. The information provided in this manuscript is of interest to researchers, veterinarians and public health officials involved in SARS-CoV-2 research.

Technical Abstract: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have emerged as a potential reservoir host for SARS-CoV-2 given their susceptibility to infection and demonstrated high rates of seroprevalence across the United States. As SARS-CoV-2 circulates within free-ranging white-tailed deer populations, there is the risk of transmission back to other wildlife species and even back to the human population. The goal of this study was to determine the susceptibility of North American elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) to experimental infection with SARS-CoV-2, to determine if another wide-ranging cervid species could potentially serve as a reservoir host for the virus. Here we demonstrate that while North American elk do not develop clinical signs of disease, they do develop a neutralizing antibody response to infection, suggesting the virus is capable of replicating in this mammalian host. Additionally, we demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 RNA persistence in the medial retropharyngeal lymph nodes of infected elk. Consistent with previous observations in humans, these data may highlight a mechanism of viral persistence for SARS-CoV-2 in elk.