Last Tuesday (19), scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts (USA) explained to The Conversation the importance of identifying the new coronavirus in wild animals. The study’s authors and experts in infectious diseases and veterinary medicine, Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki, believe that better understanding of the dynamics of virus transmission between species can help prevent new mutations, minimizing threats to the vaccine’s effectiveness.
The reason for concern is due to the volatile nature of the virus, which can mutate when infecting other species and adapting to new hosts. Runstadler and Sawatzki explain that there are still no details on the impact of these mutations on the human body and that these changes may indicate the appearance of new variants of the virus in the future.
In this context, the researchers are collecting biological samples from wild animals in partnership with other veterinarians, looking for traces of the new coronavirus and possible mutations. Fortunately, they have not identified any positive cases in more than 300 animals of 20 different species.
However, the presence of the new coronavirus in animals is no longer a surprise. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been reports of people infected with covid-19 who ended up transmitting the disease to their pets. These cases can happen after the contact of the species with a high concentration of viral load, either directly, such as prolonged human contact, or indirectly, through the ingestion of waste water and food, for example.
Unfortunately, measures to stem the possible advance in Sars-Cov-2 transmission among wildlife can be severe. At the end of last year, Denmark sacrificed about 17 million minkes after an outbreak of covid-19 on 200 farms. Runstadler and Sawatzki say the discovery confirmed the concern: “seeing the first wild animal with natural covid-19 is alarming, but unfortunately it is not surprising”.