Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms between humans and mink and back to humans

Bas Oude Munnink, Reina Sikkema, David Nieuwenhuijse, RJ Molenaar, Emmanuelle Münger, Richard Molenkamp, A Spek, P Tolsma, A Rietveld, M Brouwer, N Bouwmeester-Vincken, F Harders, RHV Der Honing, MCA Wegdam-Blans, RJ Bouwstra, Corine Geurts van Kessel, Annemiek Baltissen - van der Eijk, FC Velkers, L A M Smit, A StegemanWHM van der Poel, Marion Koopmans

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Animal experiments have shown that nonhuman primates, cats, ferrets, hamsters, rabbits, and bats can be infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In addition, SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been detected in felids, mink, and dogs in the field. Here, we describe an in-depth investigation using whole-genome sequencing of outbreaks on 16 mink farms and the humans living or working on these farms. We conclude that the virus was initially introduced by humans and has since evolved, most likely reflecting widespread circulation among mink in the beginning of the infection period, several weeks before detection. Despite enhanced biosecurity, early warning surveillance, and immediate culling of animals in affected farms, transmission occurred between mink farms in three large transmission clusters with unknown modes of transmission. Of the tested mink farm residents, employees, and/or individuals with whom they had been in contact, 68% had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Individuals for which whole genomes were available were shown to have been infected with strains with an animal sequence signature, providing evidence of animal-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within mink farms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-177
Number of pages6
Issue number6525
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grants 874735 (VEO), 848096 (SHARP JA), and 101003589 (RECoVER); from ZonMW under grant 10150062010005; and from the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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