A mutated strain of Covid called Cluster 5 has led to the slaughter of millions of mink in Denmark.
Scientists think that the virus was transmitted by mink farm workers onto the animals, before jumping back to humans. They believe that a mutation took place in the ‘spike’ protein which the virus needs in order to penetrate human cells.
“Mink is obviously a permissive species for the virus,” Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, explained to MailOnline.
“But in the process certain mutations, which are always present at some level, are selected as that form of the virus does better in mink cells compared to human,” Jones continued.
“This gives the mink virus, which can then spread easily among the very dense populations of animals on mink farms. ‘It happens in other viruses too, influenza for example, but it generally stops there.”
The number of people thought to be infected through contact with a mink is low – just 13 in northern Denmark.
Just this week it was announced that an inoculation developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer could be 90 percent effective in the fight against the disease.
However, the Pfizer serum works by targeting the same protein which has been affected by the mink mutation – and this is fueling fears that the drug-maker’s product could theoretically become ineffective.
Mass mink graves
In the meantime, despite no conclusive proof of the exact threat the infected mink may carry, Danish authorities are killing the animals in their millions and are dumping them in mass graves due to a shortage of incinerators.
This is reportedly taking place on military land close to the town of Holstebro in the north west of the country.
And it’s despite the fact that the Denmark government admitted to not yet having the legal basis for the action being taken.
Although there is no evidence that the new strain is more dangerous than the existing coronavirus affecting people, the United Kingdom are taking precautions and have blocked non-British travelers from Denmark entering the country.
Image Featured: Philip Bird