Danish government defends order to kill minks with mutated coronavirus

Mink farm in Laois

Genomes generated from the SARS-CoV-2 virus sampled during these events support many introductions of SARS-CoV-2 from infected humans into mink populations with very subtly different lineages of virus in circulation on different farms.

Drug makers and research centers are striving to provide a safe and effective vaccine in an effort to end the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, more than a quarter million Danes went into lockdown in a northern region of the country where a mutated variation of the coronavirus was found. "Scientists will update when we have more info", tweeted virologist Emma Holcroft, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

"I really wish that the trend of science by press release would stop", they added.

"There is no reason why genomic data can not be shared, which would allow the scientific community to evaluate these claims", she added on Twitter. "It's hard to communicate risk when you haven't seen the data".

The WHO has said that further studies need to be carried out to evaluate the potential implications of this variant in terms of transmission, clinical presentation, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine development.

The opposition has latched on to evidence that the most recent case of the mutant variant of Covid-19 - called cluster 5 - was identified as far back as September. Millions of mink will be killed as a result.

But the government, which says it has coordinated its plans with the World Health Organization, warns that the latest mutation is just the tip of the iceberg.

Travel restrictions into and out of Denmark from Ireland are in place
Travel restrictions into and out of Denmark from Ireland are in place

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr. Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe's senior director of public affairs, said in an emailed statement, "Denmark is one of the largest fur producers on the planet, so a total shut down of all Danish mink fur farms amidst spiralling COVID-19 infections, is a significant development". It's thought that the cramped conditions of fur farms make it easy for the virus to spread through the population.

A paper published in July 2020, concluded that SARS-CoV-2 came from a virus with relatively generalist properties circulating in horseshoe bats for several decades.

Ryanair said it is cancelling all flights to Denmark due to the government's new travel restrictions.

"The true implication of the changes in the spike protein have not yet been evaluated by the global scientific community and are thus unclear".

To date, no study has shown that the newer variants of Sars-Cov-2 are more contagious or risky than their predecessors. This, she explained could drastically affect the potency of vaccines, when they are finally available.

Danish scientists are anxious that genetic changes in a mink-related form of the virus, infecting a dozen people, has the potential to make future vaccines less effective.

At the same time, mutations in minks may offer an important signpost as to how SARS-CoV-2 is adapting to infecting a new host.


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