Ohio researchers studying potential for animals to harbor coronavirus mutations

A team of researchers at Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center launched an animal surveillance program to determine which animal populations may carry COVID-19 and how it may affect human transmission. 

The collaborative effort involves veterinarians, microbiologists and epidemiologists who are testing household pets, farm animals and wildlife. In addition to evaluating which animal populations may carry the virus, researchers also hope to confirm whether animals can harbor coronavirus mutations capable of transmitting COVID-19 back to humans in a new form, according to a Feb. 1 news release. 

"We spend a lot of time understanding how the disease transmits within humans, and now we are taking a step back to examine if animals can carry the virus, if they get sick and whether they can reinfect humans," said Vanessa Hale, PhD, professor of veterinary preventive medicine at the university. "Finding the answers to these questions will help predict and prevent future infections." 

Existing research has confirmed that mink are capable of both contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it back to humans, Dr. Hale said. 

Researchers have relied on similar animal surveillance in the past to detect new strains of the flu. 

More articles on public health:
What the CDC knows about the nation's first 13 million COVID-19 vaccine recipients
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Feb. 2
US vaccinations outnumber COVID-19 cases; reinfection more likely if variants become dominant — 7 updates

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