Introduction: Many countries have reported severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in mink, and transmission back to humans has raised the concern of novel variants emerging in these animals. The monitoring system on Polish mink farms detected SARS-CoV-2 infection first in January 2021 and has been kept in place since then. Material and Methods: Oral swab samples collected between February 2021 and March 2022 from 11,853 mink from 594 farms in different regions of Poland were screened molecularly for SARS-CoV-2. Isolates from those with the highest loads of viral genetic material from positive farms were sequenced and phylogenetically analysed. Serological studies were also carried out for one positive farm in order to follow the antibody response after infection. Results: SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in mink on 11 farms in 8 out of 16 Polish administrative regions. Whole genome sequences were obtained for 19 SARS-CoV-2 strains from 10 out of 11 positive farms. These genomes belonged to four different variants of concern (VOC) - VOC-Gamma (20B), VOC-Delta (21J), VOC-Alpha (20I) and VOC-Omicron (21L) - and seven different Pango lineages - B.1.1.464, B.1.1.7, AY.43, AY.122, AY.126, B.1.617.2 and BA.2. One of the nucleotide and amino acid mutations specific for persistent strains found in the analysed samples was the Y453F host adaptation mutation. Serological testing of blood samples revealed a high rate of seroprevalence on the single mink farm studied. Conclusion: Farmed mink are highly susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2 of different lineages, including Omicron BA.2 VOC. As these infections were asymptomatic, mink may become an unnoticeable virus reservoir generating new variants potentially threatening human health. Therefore, real-time monitoring of mink is extremely important in the context of the One Health approach.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the financial resources of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Puławy, Poland. Additionally, the study was also supported by funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No. 773830: One Health European Joint Programme COVRIN, 2018-2022 science funding awarded for an international project co-financed by the Ministry of Education and Science, Poland.
© 2022 K. Domańska-Blicharz et al. published by Sciendo.