Mutated Mink Coronavirus Strain Spreads in Denmark

Mutated Mink Coronavirus Strain Spreads in Denmark.

A mutated coronavirus strain found in Danish mink has now spread to more than 200 people as the country’s PM warns the new strain ‘could pose a risk that future vaccines won’t work’ and says ‘the eyes of the world are on us’.

The country has announced more than 280,000 people in the North Jutland region will now be in lockdown amid growing fears over the spread of the mutated virus. The mutation had been detected in 11 cases in the region a day ago, but now there are 214 people infected according to Denmark’s infectious diseases agency.

Denmark set off alarm bells this week with its announcement that it is culling the nation’s entire mink herd — the largest in the world — to stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the prized fur species because of potentially dangerous mutations.

Opposing Views

Inter-species jumps of viruses make scientists nervous — as do suggestions of potentially significant mutations that result from those jumps. In this case, Danish authorities say they’ve found some genetic changes that might undermine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines currently in development. But is this latest twist in the COVID-19 saga reason to be deeply concerned? Several experts suggested the answer to that question is probably not.

Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington, said: “This hits all the scary buttons.”  But Bergstrom and others argued that while the virus’s penchant for infecting mink bears watching, it isn’t likely to lead to a nightmare strain that is more effective at infecting people than the current human virus.

“I don’t believe that a strain which gets adapted to mink poses a higher risk to humans,” added Francois Balloux, director of University College London’s Genetics Institute. “We can never rule out anything, but in principle, it shouldn’t. It should definitely not increase transmission. I don’t see any good reason why it should make the virus more severe,” he said.

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Tony Winterburn

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