The government of Denmark shocked the world a few days ago when it announced it would slaughter as many as 17 million minks in the country, effectively destroying the entire mink fur industry in the country.
The officials opted for this radical option because of the novel coronavirus, as the pathogen developed a potentially dangerous mutation inside the captive mink population. Reports from the country said that the mutated coronavirus has already infected at least 12 people. Researchers are worried that the new strain might be so dangerous that it could effectively render the current COVID-19 vaccine candidates useless. A new report now delivers more troublesome news, as some researchers think that the mutated coronavirus strain has pandemic potential. Others, meanwhile, are calling for calm.
It might be too early to reach any definitive conclusions about the Denmark coronavirus strain that the local government has identified, and plenty of unknowns remain. Outside experts have not had access to the genetic sequencing of the data. But Denmark has already uploaded 500 genetic sequences into databases open to researchers on Thursday and will upload more.
Researchers told Stat that a single mutation might not be that dangerous and that it’s good news that the mutation was caught early — these things typically aren’t discovered until they spread more widely. The best example is SARS-CoV-2, which has an animal origin that is still a mystery.
When the novel coronavirus started spreading in humans, nobody was actively tracking it. Right now, entire teams of geneticists follow SARS-CoV-2 closely, so when mutations appear, they can be immediately identified. Tracking mutations is a key step for ensuring vaccines work. In this case, researchers might be one step ahead of a pathogen with proven pandemic potential for once. If the mink mutation is as dangerous as some fear, then Denmark’s swift actions and transparency will surely be appreciated down the road, especially compared to how China handled the coronavirus in late December last year.