FAQ: Mutant Coronavirus in Danish Mink Farms – What Do We Know? 

Over 200 people in Denmark have tested positive with coronavirus mutations linked to mink farms since June

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FAQ
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Danish health authorities have alerted about a mutant form of coronavirus in its mink farms that has now spread into humans.
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Danish health authorities have alerted about a mutant form of coronavirus in its mink farms that has now spread into humans, leading to the slaughtering of the nation’s 17 million mink population.

The Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Copenhagen has warned of potentially "serious consequences" for vaccines if the virus spreads internationally, reported The Guardian.

What are the ‘serious consequences’?

Over 200 people in Denmark have tested positive with coronavirus mutations linked to mink farms since June. But the focus has been on a dozen cases in North Jutland who fell ill a unique variant of the virus.

The variant consists of four different mutations in the so-called spike protein that is used by the virus to attack cells. Most vaccines focus on this aspect. The mutation is also known as ‘cluster five.’

Scientists at SSI have discovered that antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients may be less effective at neutralising the mutant strain, though research is ongoing. There is also no evidence that this particular mutation spreads more easily among humans or causes more severe disease.

What does this mean?

Other researchers are of the opinion that the threat maybe overblown. Of the 12 cases under investigation, eight had direct contact with the mink farms and only four cases have been found in the community.

Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, quoted in The Guardian, says:

“It could be that the mutations mean something in terms of mink to mink transmission, but are irrelevant to human transmission.”

What next?

Scientists are trying to procure samples of this mutant virus. They'll carry out a series of tests to see if indeed evades antibodies in recovered patients.

They'll also check if the virus spreads faster among humans or it causes more severe disease.

Where else has the mutation been found?

In the UK, the government has banned the travel of non-British travellers from Denmark. Six countries, including Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and the US, have reported outbreaks of coronavirus in mink farms.

(This was first published on FIT.)

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