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Preprint Dans Anglais | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-452160


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 related humans on farms. High number of farm infections (68/126) in minks and farm related personnel (>50% of farms) were detected, with limited spread to the general human population. Three of five initial introductions of SARS-CoV-2 lead to subsequent spread between mink farms until November 2020. The largest cluster acquired a mutation in the receptor binding domain of the Spike protein (position 486), evolved faster and spread more widely and longer. 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 combing genetic information with epidemiological information at the animal-human interface.

Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21252267


Assays to measure SARS-CoV-2-specific neutralizing antibodies are important to monitor seroprevalence, to study asymptomatic infections and to reveal (intermediate) hosts. A recently developed assay, the surrogate virus-neutralization test (sVNT) is a quick and commercially available alternative to the "gold standard" virus neutralization assay using authentic virus, and does not require processing at BSL-3 level. The assay relies on the inhibition of binding of the receptor binding domain (RBD) on the spike (S) protein to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) by antibodies present in sera. As the sVNT does not require species- or isotype-specific conjugates, it can be similarly used for antibody detection in human and animal sera. In this study, we used 298 sera from PCR-confirmed COVID-19 patients and 151 sera from patients confirmed with other coronavirus or other (respiratory) infections, to evaluate the performance of the sVNT. To analyze the use of the assay in a One Health setting, we studied the presence of RBD-binding antibodies in 154 sera from nine animal species (cynomolgus and rhesus macaques, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, cats, cattle, mink and dromedary camels). The sVNT showed a moderate to high sensitivity and a high specificity using sera from confirmed COVID-19 patients (91.3% and 100%, respectively) and animal sera (93.9% and 100%), however it lacked sensitivity to detect low titers. Significant correlations were found between the sVNT outcomes and PRNT50 and the Wantai total Ig and IgM ELISAs. While species-specific validation will be essential, our results show that the sVNT holds promise in detecting RBD-binding antibodies in multiple species.

Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20248760


Unprecedented SARS-CoV-2 infections in farmed minks raised immediate concerns regarding human health which initiated intensive environmental investigations. Air sampling was performed in infected mink farms, at farm premises and at residential sites. A range of other environmental samples were collected from minks housing units including bedding material. Inside the farms, high levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA were found in airborne dust, on surfaces, and on various other environmental matrices. This warns for occupational exposure which was substantiated by considerable SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in personal air samples. Dispersion of SARS-CoV-2 to outdoor air was found to be limited and SARS-CoV-2 RNA was not detected in air samples collected beyond farm premises, implying a negligible environmental exposure risk for nearby communities. Our occupational and environmental risk assessment is in line with whole genome sequences analyses showing mink-to-human transmission in farm workers, but no indications for direct zoonotic transmission events to nearby communities.

Preprint Dans Anglais | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-101493


In April 2020, respiratory disease and increased mortality were observed in farmed mink on two farms in the Netherlands. In both farms, at least one worker had been found positive for SARS-CoV-2. Necropsies of the mink revealed interstitial pneumonia, and organ and swab samples tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by qPCR. Variations in viral genomes point at between-mink transmission on the farms and lack of infection link between the farms. Inhalable dust in the mink houses contained viral RNA, indicating possible exposure of workers.

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