At least seven countries have started reporting mink-related mutations of Covid-19 in humans, raising concerns about whether these strains will pose a threat to the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines. Since most of the cases were reported in Denmark, a nationwide cull of farmed mink was carried out earlier this month, the Guardian reported.
Scientists, who have been uploading virus sequencing and information about variants to a global database known as GISAID, have claimed there are now signs of mink variants in countries around the world, the Guardian reported.
These variants are identified as Covid-19 mink mutations as they were first found in mink and later in humans as well. Apart from Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the Faroe Islands, Russia and the US have all reported cases of mink-related mutations, according to the Guardian.
“We knew there were these mink variants in seven countries, but we only had about 20 genomes of each, which is very few,” Francois Balloux, a co-author of the database, told the Guardian. “Then last week the Danes uploaded 6,000 genome sequences and with those we were able to identify 300 or more of the mink variant Y453F in viruses having infected humans in Denmark.”
Balloux said that the only way to contain the spread of the Covid-19 mink mutation is to cull farmed mink in the countries where the variants are being discovered.
The nationwide cull of farmed mink took place in Denmark after research from the country’s public health body, the States Serum Institut (SSI), showed that a mink variant called C5 could undermine vaccine efficacy as it was more difficult for antibodies to neutralise.
Other countries, including Spain, the Netherlands and Greece, have also begun killing mink infected by Covid-19. Earlier this week, Poland started carrying out mandatory coronavirus testing on the mink population, Reuters reported.
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