SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) Infection of Wild White-Tailed Deer in New York City

Kurt J. Vandegrift, Michele Yon, Meera Surendran Nair, Abhinay Gontu, Santhamani Ramasamy, Saranya Amirthalingam, Sabarinath Neerukonda, Ruth H. Nissly, Shubhada K. Chothe, Padmaja Jakka, Lindsey LaBella, Nicole Levine, Sophie Rodriguez, Chen Chen, Veda Sheersh Boorla, Tod Stuber, Jason R. Boulanger, Nathan Kotschwar, Sarah Grimké Aucoin, Richard SimonKatrina L. Toal, Randall J. Olsen, James J. Davis, Dashzeveg Bold, Natasha N. Gaudreault, Krishani Dinali Perera, Yunjeong Kim, Kyeong Ok Chang, Costas D. Maranas, Juergen A. Richt, James M. Musser, Peter J. Hudson, Vivek Kapur, Suresh V. Kuchipudi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


There is mounting evidence of SARS-CoV-2 spillover from humans into many domestic, companion, and wild animal species. Research indicates that humans have infected white-tailed deer, and that deer-to-deer transmission has occurred, indicating that deer could be a wildlife reservoir and a source of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants. We examined the hypothesis that the Omicron variant is actively and asymptomatically infecting the free-ranging deer of New York City. Between December 2021 and February 2022, 155 deer on Staten Island, New York, were anesthetized and examined for gross abnormalities and illnesses. Paired nasopharyngeal swabs and blood samples were collected and analyzed for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and antibodies. Of 135 serum samples, 19 (14.1%) indicated SARS-CoV-2 exposure, and 11 reacted most strongly to the wild-type B.1 lineage. Of the 71 swabs, 8 were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA (4 Omicron and 4 Delta). Two of the animals had active infections and robust neutralizing antibodies, revealing evidence of reinfection or early seroconversion in deer. Variants of concern continue to circulate among and may reinfect US deer populations, and establish enzootic transmission cycles in the wild: this warrants a coordinated One Health response, to proactively surveil, identify, and curtail variants of concern before they can spill back into humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2770
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Odocoileus virginianus
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • disease ecology
  • enzootic transmission
  • omicron
  • reinfection
  • reservoir competence
  • spillover
  • variant of concern
  • white-tailed deer
  • zoonotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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