In Denmark the coronavirus causing COVID-19 has infected farmed minks and managed to mutate. The mutated virus has spilled over to wild minks prompting the Danish to start culling an estimated 16 million minks. There are currently three mink farms in Ireland and no cases have been confirmed here, however mink population in Ireland are to be culled.
Mink COVID Infection
There is no evidence that this mutated SARS-Cov-2, known as ‘Cluster 5’, is more virulent or causing a more severe illness than the Wuhan type that originated from bats. It also does not seem to be more transmissible.
However, there is concerning evidence that there is a moderately weaker immune response in humans to this new strain. When humans contract a virus, they quickly develop antibodies that help neutralize the contagion. There are several neutralizing antibodies that have been studied for SARS-CoV-2 and they work very well. These antibodies are produced by cells called B lymphocytes in bone marrow in the presence of a specific genome sequence unique to SARS-CoV-2.
Studies in laboratory settings have shown that this mutated mink strain coronavirus is not quite as susceptible to those antibodies – produced by our bodies’ cells – compared to the response produced by the “Wuhan-type” SARS-CoV-2. What’s concerning is that the mutations that were identified are in an area of the genome that might potentially have an impact on the vaccines that will be rolling out over the next six to twelve months. There is a worry that this mutant mink coronavirus strain may reach the wider population, and when a vaccine becomes available, it will not be effective against the new strain.
On November 7th, the Irish government decided to put in place a 14-day mandatory self-isolation for travellers coming in from Denmark, a step short of banning travel from the affected European country introduced by the UK and Northern Ireland. Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, Eamon Ryan, emphasized “there seems to be no significant traffic between Denmark and Ireland”.