The SARS-CoV-2 analog struck cats and deer in the United States about ten years ago

American veterinarians have found antibodies to close relatives of the novel coronavirus in blood samples from many domestic cats and wild deer. Scientists collected these samples back in the early 2010s. Experts published a description of the study on bioRxiv.

“Our findings point to the intriguing possibility that a coronavirus similar enough to SARS-CoV-2 has long been circulating among domestic and wildlife in North America for antibodies to neutralize particles of the COVID-19 pathogen. once again suggests that we know almost nothing about animal coronaviruses, “the researchers write.

The exact history of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 is still a matter of controversy. Scientists suggest that its ancestor began to spread among bats in East Asia as early as the middle of the last century. Knowing the entire history of the evolution of the coronavirus is hampered by the fact that over the past year, scientists have discovered traces of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 or viruses very similar to it in blood samples from people taken long before the start of the pandemic.

Veterinarians led by University of Tennessee associate professor Tim Sparer have found similar molecules in blood samples from several dozen wild deer and domestic cats that have been collected from different regions of the United States since the early 2010s.

Scientists made this discovery almost by accident. They adapted the SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests for domestic cats. To assess the accuracy of their work, scientists used blood samples from domestic animals and their feral relatives.

In these samples, Sparer and his colleagues found antibodies that could neutralize not only the known feline coronaviruses, but also the causative agent of COVID-19. Scientists found such antibodies in every second serum sample, that is, a close analogue of SARS-CoV-2 is quite common among American felines.

Veterinarians conducted similar experiments with blood samples from other animals whose populations are constantly monitored by their colleagues – dogs, domestic cows, deer, elk and tigers. As it turned out, antibodies to the virus, very similar to the causative agent of COVID-19, were also in several deer blood samples, and their concentration was very high.

Such observations indicate that coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 can circulate for several decades in populations of wild and domestic animals that live on various continents of the Earth. This indicates the need for a systematic study and assessment of the danger of such pathogens, summed up Speirer and his colleagues.

It should be added that the article, which is described in this news, is a so-called preprint. This means that it was not peer-reviewed by independent experts or reviewed by scientific journal editors, as is usually the case in such cases. Therefore, conclusions from it and similar articles should be treated with caution.

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