Pandemic danger to the deep: the risk of marine mammals contracting SARS-CoV-2 from wastewater
Published 25 November 2020
Mathavarajah, S. (2020) Pandemic danger to the deep: the risk of marine mammals contracting SARS-CoV-2 from wastewater. Science of The Total Environment, p.143346. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143346
This paper reports on an analysis of ACE2 receptors using annotated genomes of marine mammals from the 4 major groups (36 species) in order to generate an index of susceptibility for marine mammals to SARS-CoV-2.
To distinguish between the susceptible and non-susceptible species, the authors used the human ACE2 (high susceptibility), feline ACE2 (medium susceptibility; lower affinity but still susceptible) and dog ACE2 (not susceptible) as reference points. Using this method, they identified that many species of whale, dolphin, and seal, as well as otters, are predicted to be highly susceptible to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The authors then looked at wastewater management in certain Alaskan localities and concluded that this may not be sufficient for preventing waterborne exposure of nearby marine mammals to the virus.
They concluded that while the risk to marine mammals is likely very low, especially in terms of creating a sustained problem , since some marine mammal populations are highly threatened, an outbreak localized to an individual pod or population could still have significant consequences.