Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms between humans and mink and back to humans

Oude Munnink, Bas B.; Sikkema, Reina S.; Nieuwenhuijse, David F.; Molenaar, Robert Jan; Munger, Emmanuelle; Molenkamp, Richard; Spek, Arco Van Der; Tolsma, Paulien; Rietveld, Ariene; Brouwer, Miranda; Bouwmeester-vincken, Noortje; Harders, Frank; Hakze-van Der Honing, Renate; Wegdam-blans, Marjolein C.A.; Bouwstra, Ruth J.; Geurts van Kessel, Corine; Eijk, Annemiek A. Van Der; Velkers, Francisca C.; Smit, Lidwien A.M.; Stegeman, Arjan; Poel, Wim H.M. Van Der; Koopmans, Marion P.G.


Animal experiments have shown that non-human primates, cats, ferrets, hamsters, rabbits and bats can be infected by SARS-CoV-2. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been detected in felids, mink and dogs in the field. Here, we describe an in-depth investigation using whole genome sequencing of outbreaks on 16 mink farms and the humans living or working on these farms. We conclude that the virus was initially introduced from humans and has since evolved, most likely reflecting widespread circulation among mink in the beginning of the infection period several weeks prior to detection. Despite enhanced biosecurity, early warning surveillance and immediate culling of infected farms, transmission occurred between mink farms in three big transmission clusters with unknown modes of transmission. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the tested mink farm residents, employees and/or contacts had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Where whole genomes were available, these persons were infected with strains with an animal sequence signature, providing evidence of animal to human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within mink farms.