Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the Faroe Islands, Russia and the US have all reported cases of mink-related mutations.
Despite a political backlash the cull has continued, and farmers have until midnight on Thursday to cull all mink in the country. However, the row over the cull has forced the resignation of the Danish agriculture minister, Mogens Jensen.
“We knew there were these mink variants in seven countries, but we only had about 20 genomes of each, which is very few. Then last week the Danes uploaded 6,000 genome sequences and with those we were able to identify 300 or more of the mink variant Y453F in viruses having infected humans in Denmark,” said University College London (UCL) Genetics Institute director Francois Balloux.
Asked about the implications of the findings, Balloux said it was an indication of the need to cull farmed mink. “A bigger host reservoir means more infections in humans. The main point here, I think, is that although the mutation might not be scary, there is still very good reason to get rid of the mink reservoir. We just don’t need it.” In Denmark, he added, they have a lot of mink, “over three times more than humans”.