Michigan Mink Mystery: How Did an Interspecies Outbreak Unfold?

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But determining when and in whom the mutations first appeared requires many more virus samples from farm workers, local residents and mink, collected before and after the outbreak. “That data doesn’t exist,” said Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan.

Throughout 2020, testing has been difficult for Americans to access, and few patient samples have been sequenced. Surveillance in animals was even worse; until this springfederal officials have explicitly recommended against routinely testing animals for the virus.

“Large-scale testing was not available and then there was a shortage of some supplies,” Dr Behravesh said. “So we didn’t want there to be, you know, a mad rush to test animals.”

Without more samples, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility that the variant originated in humans, who then spread it to mink, the scientists said.

A bigger puzzle is how the taxidermist and his wife got it. The most likely possibility, according to several experts, is that the variant was circulating more widely in the human population than previously known, and that the couple caught it from another infected person.

Another, more speculative possibility is that they got the variant from another animal species. “Taxisdermists deal with other dead animals,” said Linda Saif, a virologist and immunologist at Ohio State University.

But because the cases were detected “weeks to months” after the two fell ill, testing every animal they might have come into contact with “was not feasible or not indicated”, he said. said Lynn Sutfin, Michigan DHHS spokesperson.

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