USDA Developing Tools to Identify COVID in Wild and Domestic Animals
WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service is developing new tests and tools to identify and track the coronavirus and its variants in wild and domestic animals.
The initiative, part of a $300 million provision in the American Rescue Plan Act, is being carried out in partnership with the department’s Agricultural Research Services.
Together they are conducting five separate research projects aimed at improving understanding of the virus and building an early warning system to prevent or limit the next zoonotic disease outbreak or global pandemic.
“This investment ensures we are taking the steps necessary to safeguard our nation’s animal health — and further, public health,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a written statement.
“Scientific research undergirds USDA’s programs and policies. The new tools and data generated from this research will provide the insights necessary to accelerate our understanding of the COVID virus and help us build a more resilient national capacity to address future disease threats,” he said.
Two of the projects call for developing easy-to-use field tests to quickly identify COVID infection in wildlife and domestic animals.
In two other projects, field and laboratory studies will determine how long the virus persists in deer and whether deer or elk can serve as an intermediate animal host in which COVID virus can survive in the wild and potentially mutate into new variants.
The fifth project is developing a cell line model that will let researchers better predict which animal species may act as hosts or reservoirs for the COVID virus.
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