- Danish researchers report that one of the variants of the virus found in mink isn’t as easily defeated by the antibodies that humans produce against Covid-19. One risk is that people who have recovered from Covid-19 may have antibodies that are less able to fight off the mink strain of the virus, leaving them open to reinfection. And most of the vaccines under development, on which we are pinning so much hope, are intended to induce antibodies that target the spike protein in the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans. While it’s too early to say for certain, one possibility is that these vaccines could be less effective against the mink virus, because it has a different spike protein.
In this age of zoonotic epidemics, with Sars, Mers and now Covid-19 all emerging in the past 20 years, we must think carefully about how we intensively farm mammals that are known hosts of human coronaviruses. Before the pandemic, the Netherlands was already in the process of stopping intensive mink farming. But many dangerous types of animal farming still continue. Consider the palm civet. This animal was implicated in the emergence of Sars in 2003, acting as a probable intermediary between the bats in which the Sars virus originated, and the people whom it later infected.
As an animal that might have helped to trigger a pandemic, are we now keeping the palm civet at a safe distance? Quite the opposite. In parts of Asia the palm civet is farmed intensively, fed coffee cherries, and the beans collected from its faeces are used to make the world’s most expensive coffee, kopi luwak.
Given the huge human, social and economic costs of pandemics, there’s a compelling argument that in order to prevent future catastrophes, we can no longer afford to take such risks.
- Source: The Covid-carrying Danish mink are a warning sign – but is anyone heeding it? | Coronavirus | The Guardian