Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fur Flying

SARS-CoV-2 variants in farmed mink – fears for re-transmission to humans

28 December 2021

Fur Flying

From domestic cats and dogs to snow leopards and even hippopotamuses in zoos, many animals can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. While the hippos only suffered runny noses, outbreaks in mink (pictured) in fur farms have been much more serious. Often housed in crowded conditions ideal for spreading respiratory diseases, mink can develop severe symptoms, and millions have also been culled preventively. Most concerningly, new variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in mink, and in some cases these have been transmitted back to humans. While none of these variants appear especially problematic so far, viral evolution in mink raises fears that SARS-CoV-2 could become yet more dangerous before jumping back into humans, prompting calls for tighter biosecurity on mink farms. From its origins in bats to its current movements between species, coronavirus is forcing us to consider human and animal health in a more integrated way.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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