Adaptation, spread and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in farmed minks and associated humans in the Netherlands

Lu Lu, Reina S. Sikkema, Francisca C. Velkers, David F. Nieuwenhuijse, Egil A.J. Fischer, Paola A. Meijer, Noortje Bouwmeester-Vincken, Ariene Rietveld, Marjolijn C.A. Wegdam-Blans, Paulien Tolsma, Marco Koppelman, Lidwien A.M. Smit, Renate W. Hakze-van der Honing, Wim H.M. van der Poel, Arco N. van der Spek, Marcel A.H. Spierenburg, Robert J. Molenaar, Jan de Rond, Marieke Augustijn, Mark WoolhouseJ.A. Stegeman, Samantha Lycett, Bas B. Oude Munnink, Marion P.G. Koopmans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


In the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020), SARS-CoV-2 was detected in farmed minks and genomic sequencing was performed on mink farms and farm personnel. Here, we describe the outbreak and use sequence data with Bayesian phylodynamic methods to explore SARS-CoV-2 transmission in minks and humans on farms. High number of farm infections (68/126) in minks and farm workers (>50% of farms) were detected, with limited community spread. Three of five initial introductions of SARS-CoV-2 led to subsequent spread between mink farms until November 2020. Viruses belonging to the largest cluster acquired an amino acid substitution in the receptor binding domain of the Spike protein (position 486), evolved faster and spread longer and more widely. Movement of people and distance between farms were statistically significant predictors of virus dispersal between farms. Our study provides novel insights into SARS-CoV-2 transmission between mink farms and highlights the importance of combining genetic information with epidemiological information when investigating outbreaks at the animal-human interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6802
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2021


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