COVID in Deer? WHAT?!? Just another thing to worry about? Kind of.
Researchers have recently discovered that COVID-19 can “jump” from the human species to white-tailed deer. Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi was one of the researchers studying this phenomenon and joined me on my Causes or Cures podcast to explain what this means for the pandemic.
I am personally interested in this topic, not just from a pandemic-response perspective, but it ties into a research project I worked on while getting my masters of public health. My research involved using computer-generated models to identify factors that could predict emerging infectious diseases. A lot of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature, meaning they jump from an animal species to a human species. The COVID in deer phenomenon, however, goes in the other direction: Deer are getting COVID from spillover from humans.
Interestingly, most of the factors driving emerging infectious diseases are man-made. I wrote a blog about it here, and I even made a picture so it’s easier to understand. While we are dealing with COVID-19 now, we could easily have another pandemic on our hands in the near future if we do nothing to address the factors driving emerging infectious diseases. First, we need to make people aware of these factors and educate them on how the factors drive new infectious diseases, while determining and executing best mitigation practices. Public Health lives or dies with funding. While we have cut pandemic-response research on the past, I hope if one good thing comes out of COVID, we invest heavily in pandemic control and prevention.
In this episode of Causes or Cures, I chatted with Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi about his newly published research on the presence of SARS-Cov-2 ( COVID-19) in white-tailed deer in the US. He will discuss how they conducted the study, its findings and what they could mean for viral transmission, the “spillover” of SARS-Cov-2 from humans to deer and how it most likely happened, the symptom profile in deer, how multiple hosts may complicate mitigation efforts, and what this may mean for the trajectory of the pandemic.
Dr. Kuchipudi is a clinical professor at Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and is Associate Director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory where he oversees the microbiology department. He is a trained veterinarian and a board-certified specialist in virology and immunology. His research focuses on infectious diseases, zoonotic and emerging viruses, viral pathogenesis, diagnostic assay development and pathogen-host interactions. Currenty his lab is focused on SARS-Cov-2. Recently he was named the prestigious Huck Chair of Emerging Infectious Diseases. You can learn more about him and see his publications here.
COVID in Deer:
Listen to the episode here! (Episode 79)
Thanks for tuning in and please feel free to share! 🙂