Molecular surveillance revealed no SARS-CoV-2 spillovers to raccoons (Procyon lotor) in four German federal states
Raccoons (Procyon lotor), which are closely related to the family Mustelidae, might be susceptible to natural infection by SARS-CoV-2. This assumption is based on experimental evidence that confirmed the vulnerability of farmed fur-carnivore species, including Procyon lotor to SARS-CoV-2. To date, there are no reports of natural SARS-CoV-2 infections of raccoons in Germany. Here, we use RT-PCR to analyze 820 samples from raccoons hunted in Germany with a focus on 4 German federal states (Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia). Lung tissues were homogenized and processed for RNA extraction and RT-qPCR for detecting SARS-CoV-2 was performed. No viral RNA was detected in any samples (0/820). Next, we compared raccoons and human ACE-2 residues that are known to serve for binding with SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD). Interestingly, we found only 60% identity on amino acid level, which may have contributed to the absence of SARS-CoV-2 infections in raccoons. In conclusion, the chance of raccoons being intermediate reservoir hosts for SARS-CoV-2 seems to be very low.