Experts are concerned that a suspected mutated form of coronavirus that has jumped to minks could end up scuppering a COVID-19 vaccine.
Denmark has ordered a mass cull of the animals as cases have spread fast with 207 mink farms affected in Jutland, north Denmark, affected with at least five cases of the new virus strain detected.
Seven towns have now been placed into emergency lockdown and Prime Minister Frederiksen has described the situation as “very, very serious”.
Meanwhile, in America nearly 10,000 of the animals have died from COVID-19 having wiped out nearly half of the breeding colonies.
It is thought the animals caught the condition from farm workers in Utah who had tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, mink COVID cases have also been confirmed in Wisconsin and Michigan.
Tests carried out on the animals in Denmark have shown that the spike proteins, which allows the virus to invade cells, mutated so it meant animals could become infected more easily.
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Danish researchers say when they transmitted the virus back into humans, the mutation remained which is why they are concerned it might make the COVID-19 vaccine less effective when it is eventually unveiled.
So far, five different strains have been recorded in Denmark, among 214 people since June.
But it is the new ‘Cluster 5’ Mutated strain which is causing the most concern among the State Serum Institute (SSI) for infectious diseases which says that it’s the strain’s “reduced sensitivity” towards antibodies that makes it so dangerous.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has played down the issue, saying Cluster 5 only has “moderately decreased sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies”.