SHOT VIEW: Covid-19 mutated strain, a new risk?

November 9, 2020

12 cases affected by mutated Covid-19.

With many parts of the world facing the second phase of Covid-19, Denmark has said it has found a new strain of the virus. It was discovered because an outbreak in the farmed mink population triggered a mutation of the virus. According to the data, cases of Covid-19 have been found in 217 of the 1,139 Danish mink farms. Denmark said the government plans to cull all minks on Danish farms to reduce the risk of animals relaying the strain to humans.

In recent months, several countries have found cases of mink affected by Covid-19. In the Netherlands, more than 100 mink farms will be closed by March after dozens of animals contract the virus. This summer Spain said nearly 100,000 mink on a farm in the north-east would be culled after 87% tested positive. The Spanish authorities took this decision to avoid the risk of human transmission, although it was not yet clear whether transmission was possible.

According to the data reported in recent days from Denmark, it seems that the transmission may take place. The analyzes found more than 200 coronavirus cases that appear to be linked to diseased mink on farms. This suggests that the transmission of the virus from mink to humans is more pervasive than previously thought. What worries most are the 12 known cases in which humans have contracted the new form of the virus.

The discovery of the new strain has raised doubts about the effectiveness of a future Covid-19 vaccine. A mutation of the virus could hamper efforts made to date. It could weaken and undermine the effect of a future vaccine, with serious consequences for the global control of the pandemic.

The WHO has said it will investigate biosecurity measures around the world after the discovery by the Danish health authorities. More in-depth studies are also needed to assess whether the new strain could create changes in the virus transmissibility or severity, and if this could have implications for vaccines and therapies. This could be a global problem given the presence of farms all over the world.

This news could change prospects. It generates further uncertainty about how the situation will evolve. A mutation of the virus could undermine the studies developed to date by researchers and delay the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine, with important consequences on an already extremely weakened world economy.