Professor Justin Stebbing looks at this issue in his daily update report and discusses the fact that COVID-19 was detected in nearly 200 mink farms in Denmark.  

The strain which the minks had showed decreased sensitivity to COVID-19 antibodies.  

He suggests that the strain had spread to humans, but transmission was limited and that Denmark was hoping to contain it before it transmitted further.  

He commented that the concern with having decreased antibody sensitivity is that it could make the strain less sensitive to the current vaccines being formulated.  It was suggested that as a result of this, there was a potential that new vaccines would have to be designed to capture these multiple COVID strains.  

The strain found in the mink had four mutations in the spike protein and one in the RBD, which is where the researchers have become concerned.  

He argues there is a lot that we still do not know – just because the strain has reduced sensitivity to antibodies, does not mean that the vaccines will not be effective.  

He argues that mutations that change the virus could change its infectivity or pathogenicity, reducing or increasing it, but he feels that as the strain has reduced sensitivity to antibodies, that vaccines will not be effective.  

At present there is no sign that the infectivity or pathogenicity of this strain is worse.  He also argues that unfortunately, mink are susceptible to the SARS 2 virus.  In the Netherlands infected humans who worked in farms transmitted the virus to captive minks, unfortunately, the cowls were in close quarters making it ideal for a rapid transmission from mink to mink.  

Unfortunately, there is probably going to be a cull of the entire mink population.  

In writing this, I note that there has been a mutation found in mink throughout other countries.  

So no, I do not think we will be wearing mink this year, if anything we should be wearing artificial fur.

Dr Paul Ettlinger
London General Practice

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