First publication on coronavirus transmission on mink farms

November 10, 2020

Various animal species, among which mustelids, are susceptible to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the disease COVID-19. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to experience outbreaks on mink farms. A paper about the investigation by various Dutch institutes, including Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR), was published on 10 November 2020 in Science Online.

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In-depth investigation of 16 mink farms

From April 2020 until now there have been outbreaks at dozens of mink farms in the Netherlands. Here, researchers report about their investigations into outbreaks on the first 16 mink farms and humans living or working on these farms. Whole genome sequencing was used to underpin sources of transmission.

The authors conclude that the virus was initially introduced from humans and has evolved in the mink population. Most likely this reflects widespread circulation among mink, in the beginning period of the infection, several weeks prior to detection. Despite enhanced biosecurity, early warning surveillance and immediate culling of infected farms, there is ongoing transmission between mink farms. Three big transmission clusters were detected with unknown modes of transmission. In the paper an in-depth investigation is described to unravel the modes of transmission and sources of infection on mink farms and mink farm employees. The article also describes the first animal to human transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 in mink farms and the virus diversity and specific mutations in 16 infected mink farms in the Netherlands.

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