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Lack of detection of SARS-CoV-2 in British wildlife 2020-21 and first description of a stoat (Mustela erminea) Minacovirus

Apaa, Ternenge, Withers, Amy J., Mackenzie, Laura, Staley, Ceri, Dessi, Nicola, Blanchard, Adam, Bennett, Malcolm, Bremner-Harrison, Samantha, Chadwick, Elizabeth A. ORCID:, Hailer, Frank ORCID:, Harrison, Stephen W. R., Lambin, Xavier, Loose, Matthew, Mathews, Fiona and Tarlinton, Rachael 2023. Lack of detection of SARS-CoV-2 in British wildlife 2020-21 and first description of a stoat (Mustela erminea) Minacovirus. Journal of General Virology 104 (12) , 001917. 10.1099/jgv.0.001917

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Repeat spillover of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) into new hosts has highlighted the critical role of cross-species transmission of coronaviruses and establishment of new reservoirs of virus in pandemic and epizootic spread of coronaviruses. Species particularly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 spillover include Mustelidae (mink, ferrets and related animals), cricetid rodents (hamsters and related animals), felids (domestic cats and related animals) and white-tailed deer. These predispositions led us to screen British wildlife with sarbecovirus-specific quantitative PCR and pan coronavirus PCR assays for SARS-CoV-2 using samples collected during the human pandemic to establish if widespread spillover was occurring. Fourteen wildlife species (n=402) were tested, including: two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), 101 badgers (Meles meles), two wild American mink (Neogale vison), 41 pine marten (Martes martes), two weasels (Mustela nivalis), seven stoats (Mustela erminea), 108 water voles (Arvicola amphibius), 39 bank voles (Myodes glareolous), 10 field voles (Microtus agrestis), 15 wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), one common shrew (Sorex aranaeus), two pygmy shrews (Sorex minutus), two hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) and 75 Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra). No cases of SARS-CoV-2 were detected in any animals, but a novel minacovirus related to mink and ferret alphacoronaviruses was detected in stoats recently introduced to the Orkney Islands. This group of viruses is of interest due to pathogenicity in ferrets. The impact of this virus on the health of stoat populations remains to be established.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Microbiology Society
ISSN: 0022-1317
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 December 2023
Date of Acceptance: 23 October 2023
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 16:45

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