Should we be worried about the mutation of the virus in contact with mink?

On Thursday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) called on European countries to take “infection prevention and control measures for mink farm workers and visitors” and to test animals, which can both be infected with the coronavirus and infect humans.

While the missing animal link between bat and man is still not established with certainty – the long suspected pangolin has been “cleared” and specialists now suspect contamination via the civet, already at the origin of SARS -, the Covid-19 continues to experience mutations, often harmless, but which will perhaps enlighten scientists on its origin. The most serious, called “Cluster 5” concerns mink farms – the vision is also an animal of the same family as the civet, the mustelids. Already in the spring, especially in the Netherlands, cases of Covid-10 contamination of visions had appeared. But this fall, the case is much more serious, to the point that the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which mainly covers the 27 countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom, invited every Thursday countries to take “infection prevention and control measures for mink farm workers and visitors”.

Lower efficacy of human antibodies

It all started in Denmark, in Hamlet’s beloved North Jutland province, with cases of contamination from mink to humans. In total, 214 patients were carriers of mutant forms linked to mink in Denmark, including 12 of the “Cluster 5” form dating back to September. “The cases were between the ages of 7 and 79, eight of them were related to the mink farming industry and four were from the local community,” the World Health Organization said. According to the latter, the strain “Cluster 5” implies, according to the first studies, a lower efficiency of human antibodies, which threatens the development of a vaccine against Covid-19. Nevertheless, “the first observations suggest that the clinical presentation, the severity and the transmission of infected persons are similar to those of other viruses of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation”, specifies the WHO.

On November 4, Denmark, the world’s leading exporter of mink skins, ordered the slaughter of more than 15 million of these mammals but, after a legal micmac that France is not the only one to know, only a little over 2.4 million animals have been slaughtered. Drastic restrictions were imposed Thursday for a month in the seven municipalities where the most cases in farms have been declared, which could be enough to curb the epidemic in the province of North Jutland. No new human case of this strain has been detected in recent days.

Still, the scientific community is worried about the existence of “Cluster 5” cases outside Denmark and not spotted. To date, six countries, namely Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States have reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 in mink farms in the World Organization for Animal Health. And the rarer and more expensive mink fur becomes, the more it will be sold via black markets with therefore a total lack of traceability of the goods.

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