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What’s the science behind mink and coronavirus?

Mutations in coronavirus have triggered culls of millions of farmed mink in Denmark. Part of the country has been put under lockdown after Danish authorities found genetic changes they say might undermine the effectiveness of future Covid-19 vaccines.

More than 200 people have been infected with strains related to mink, according to reports.

The World Health Organization has said it is too early to jump to conclusions.

“We need to wait and see what the implications are but I don’t think we should come to any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy,” said chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan.

The coronavirus, like all viruses, mutates over time and there is no evidence that any of the mutations found in Denmark pose an increased danger to people.

Danish scientists are particularly concerned about one mink-related strain, found in 12 people, which they say is less sensitive to antibodies against the virus, raising concerns about vaccine development.

The UK has imposed an immediate ban on all visitors from Denmark amid concerns about the new strain.

Dr Marisa Peyre, an epidemiologist from the French research institute Cirad, said the development was “worrying”, but we don’t yet know the full picture.

“Every time the virus spreads between animals it changes, and if it changes too much from the one that is circulating within humans at the moment, that might mean that any vaccine or treatment that will be produced soon might not work as well as it should do,” she explained.

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