Virus Mutation in Mink

Science Fields

As the world enters yet another lock-down period with the coronavirus epidemic on the rise once again, news from Denmark raised concerns. Health authorities in Denmark have found that a mutation of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spread from minks to humans. About 200 people were affected by the virus-carrying of this new mutation. While the Danish government decided to shut down all mink farms and started a partial quarantine in the country, the World Health Organization also stated that the reports are worrisome. It is not yet clear how this development will affect vaccination and treatment studies.

Danish scientists found that the new variant called “cluster 5”, initially identified in 12 people, carried combinations of mutations that were never observed before. All of these cases between the ages of 7 and 79 were from the Northern Jutland Region of Denmark. The coronavirus is thought to be transmitted from human carriers to the mink, underwent genetic changes among mink populations, and then transmitted back to humans.

Denmark is the world’s largest exporter of mink furs. According to reports, the new coronavirus mutation was detected in 207 of the 1,139 mink farms in the country. Apart from Denmark, SARS-CoV-2 has also been detected in mink farms in the USA, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Italy and all these cases were reported to the Animal Health Unit of the World Health Organization.

With these developments, the plan is to kill nearly 17 million minks raised in Danish farms. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, “We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,”

The most troubling issue about the new mutation is that the new virus strains showed lower sensitivity to antibodies, as was observed in these 12 patients. This means, even though current studies conducted around the world for an effective coronavirus vaccine yield positive results, a similar mutation carries the bitter possibility of proving immune to the vaccines. The World Health Organization has not yet rung the alarm bells but has called for immediate information sharing concerning the epidemiology, virology and full genome sequence data on the new mutation. Sharing this information with all countries and working groups is necessary in order to make clearer assessments of the situation.

Dr Marisa Peyre, an epidemiologist from the French research institute Cirad, explains: “Every time the virus spreads between animals it changes, and if it changes too much from the one that is circulating within humans at the moment, that might mean that any vaccine or treatment that will be produced soon might not work as well as it should do.


  • 1. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-54842643
  • 2. https://futurism.com/neoscope/mutated-covid-mink-humans-denmark
  • 3. https://www.who.int/csr/don/06-november-2020-mink-associated-sars-cov2-denmark/en/