A mutant form of novel coronavirus has been found in farmed minks, a type of mammals, scientists have revealed. So far, six countries — Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States of America — have reported SARS-CoV-2 in farmed minks, said the World Health Organization (WHO).
There is no evidence of the so-called Cluster-5 mutated coronavirus strain stemming from mink in India – the world’s second worst-affected country from COVID-19. However, as the new mutation has been found in other countries that do not have a mink population, which indicates a human to human spread, scientists are watching India closely, reported The Times of India.
“It has not been found as ‘yet’, in India,” said the report quoting scientists.
India’s Director-General of Foreign Trade has banned the import of mink fur since January 3, 2017 and minks are not native to India, said the report.
However, as these mutations have appeared in humans in countries where minks are not native, it could reach India, the report said.
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Earlier in November, Denmark reported that the mutated virus infected 12 people in August and September. The country began culling millions of minks in the north after reports of COVID-19 infection, and plans to cull all 15 million of the animals in Danish farms. Nationally, at least 216 of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark have been infected with the coronavirus.
However, Denmark has not registered any new examples of humans infected with such mutated coronavirus strain, said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke on November 13. The country’s State Serum Institute (SSI), which deals with infectious diseases, said random checks did not show any new cases of Cluster-5 in humans between October 12 and October 25.
The institute last week began genome sequencing of all positive coronavirus results registered in Northern Denmark, where most of the infected mink farms are located, in order to check for the mutation. More comprehensive results of those tests are due next week, the SSI said.
The coronavirus evolves constantly as it replicates but, to date, none of the identified mutations have changed anything about transmissibility or lethality of COVID-19.