Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

This forum is to discuss general things concerning TSOI.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Humans pose considerable risk in transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to wildlife

10/7/20 ... dlife.aspx

There's considerable risk that humans transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to wildlife, according to a perspective article published in Mammal Review.

The authors noted that if SARS-CoV-2 were to infect and spread among wild mammals, it could potentially cause disease in some populations, in turn further endangering already threatened species.

Also, if SARS-CoV-2 could be sustainably transmitted among some mammalian populations or communities, this would create new animal reservoirs that could repeatedly source new outbreaks in humans and other animals.

The researchers urge people to take sanitary precautions when in direct or indirect contact with wild or feral mammal species to prevent human-to-wildlife SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

" We really should avoid turning our pandemic into a multi-species problem. It's difficult enough to control the SARS-CoV-2 in human populations--imagine what it will be like if it spreads among wild mammals. They could also get sick and form a reservoir from which they can then again infect humans, but we can't ask animals to wear face masks and keep physical distance."

- Sophie Gryseels, PhD, Study Lead Author, University of Antwerp
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Mink housed on Michigan farm test positive for coronavirus

10/10/20 ... ronavirus/

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The virus that causes COVID-19 in humans has been detected in mink housed on a Michigan farm, the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced Friday.

The recent discovery of the coronavirus in mink at the unnamed farm is not the first time the disease has been found in the animal in the United States, officials said. In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the first confirmed cases of the virus in mink at farms in Utah. There has since been a confirmed case in Wisconsin.

After several mink recently exhibited signs of illness and died on the Michigan farm, the owner submitted specimens from the animals for diagnosis. The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory completed necropsies on two of the affected animals, which tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus.

There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans in the state, Michigan officials said. Investigations into how the mink contracted the virus are ongoing.

Upon learning of the mink infection, Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton expressed concern about how the outbreak could impact public health as well as its possible effect on Michigan agriculture.

“We have learned about potential cases of minks infected with SARS-CoV-2 at a Michigan farm,” Upton noted in a letter to the USDA. “This must be addressed to ensure the safety of farmers, their workers, and the surrounding community.”

The farm is self-contained, has few staff, and prohibits domestic animals from being onsite, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. That makes it unlikely the virus moving to wildlife, pets, or people, officials added.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Many coronavirus strains found in animals can also infect humans, shows study

10/14/20 ... study.aspx

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that a strain of coronavirus that has recently alarmed the swine industry may have the potential to spread to humans as well.

The coronavirus strain, known as swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV), emerged from bats and has infected swine herds throughout China since it was first discovered in 2016. Outbreaks of such an illness have the potential to wreak economic havoc in many countries across the globe that rely on the pork industry.

The virus' potential threat to people was demonstrated in lab tests that revealed SADS-CoV efficiently replicated in human liver and gut cells, as well as airway cells. The findings were published Oct. 12 in PNAS.

Though it is in the same family of viruses as the betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19 in humans, SADS-CoV is an alphacoronavirus that causes gastrointestinal illness in swine. The virus causes severe diarrhea and vomiting and has been especially deadly to young piglets.

SADS-COV is also distinct from two circulating common cold alphacoronaviruses in humans, HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63.

" While many investigators focus on the emergent potential of the betacoronaviruses like SARS and MERS, actually the alphacoronaviruses may prove equally prominent -- if not greater -- concerns to human health, given their potential to rapidly jump between species."

- Ralph Baric, Professor of Epidemiology, UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health

While SADS-CoV has not been known to affect humans to-date, the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a potent reminder that many coronavirus strains found in animals have the potential to infect humans as well - an effect known as spillover.

The Baric lab worked with Caitlin Edwards, a research specialist and master of public health student at UNC-Chapel Hill, on the study which suggests humans may be susceptible to spillover of SADS-CoV.

Edwards, the study's first author, tested several types of cells by infecting them with a synthetic form of SADS-CoV to understand just how high the risk of cross-species contamination could be.

Evidence from the study indicates that a wide range of mammalian cells, including primary human lung and intestinal cells, are susceptible to infection. According to Edwards, SADS-CoV shows a higher rate of growth in intestinal cells found in the human gut, unlike SARS-CoV-2, which primarily infects lung cells.

Cross-protective herd immunity often prevents humans from contracting many coronaviruses found in animals. However, results from the testing done by Edwards and her team suggest that humans have not yet developed such immunity to SADS-CoV.

"SADS-CoV is derived from bat coronaviruses called HKU2, which is a heterogenous group of viruses with a worldwide distribution," Edwards said. "It is impossible to predict if this virus, or a closely related HKU2 bat strain, could emerge and infect human populations. However, the broad host range of SADS-CoV, coupled with an ability to replicate in primary human lung and enteric cells, demonstrates potential risk for future emergence events in human and animal populations."

In response to these findings, Edwards and colleagues tested the broad-spectrum antiviral remdesivir as a potential method of treatment for the infection.

Working with Gilead Sciences, remdesivir was developed by the Baric Lab to combat all known coronaviruses, including SADS-CoV. It is currently being used to treat COVID-19 infections in humans, including the United States president.

Preliminary results from this study show that it has robust activity against SADS-CoV, though Edwards cautions that more testing is necessary on additional cell types and in animals to confirm these findings.

"Promising data with remdesivir provides a potential treatment option in the case of a human spillover event," she said. "We recommend that both swine workers and the swine population be continually monitored for indications of SADS-CoV infections to prevent outbreaks and massive economic losses."

SADS-CoV could also pose a threat to the U.S. economy, which was third in global pork production in 2019. In 2012, the U.S. pork industry was devastated by different swine coronavirus that emerged from China.

"Not surprisingly, we are currently looking for partners to investigate the potential of SADS-CoV vaccine candidates to protect swine," Baric said. "While surveillance and early separation of infected piglets from sows provide an opportunity to mitigate larger outbreaks and the potential for spillover into humans, vaccines may be key for limiting global spread and human emergence events in the future."


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Journal reference:

Edwards, C. E., et al. (2020) Swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus replication in primary human cells reveals potential susceptibility to infection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

North Korea panic: Huge yellow cloud spreads from China sparking chaos - 'Remain indoors'

NORTH KOREA has issued a terrifying coronavirus alert over a mysterious "yellow dust cloud" sweeping over the hermit nation from China.

Fri, Oct 23, 2020 ... ID-warning

(this is one of the strangest things I have read on airborne dust !)

The regime has not reported a single case of coronavirus since the deadly outbreak spread through the globe earlier this year. But now Kim Jong-un and his officials are worried a dust storm could potentially transfer the virus through the air. People are being urged to remain indoors and keep windows and doors closed.

The streets of Pyongyang were reported to be empty this week as citizens were only allowed to leave their homes if it was "necessary" and they were wearing a mask.

State-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned of "harmful ingredients" from the dust cloud "directly acting on the human respiratory system".

The newspaper reported: "In light of the current situation that new coronavirus infection continues to spread around the world and data that malignant viruses can be transferred even by air, the necessity to deal with the yellow dust phenomenon consciously and to take thorough measures is becoming more prominent.

"Above all, it is important to refrain from outdoor activities and never go outside unnecessarily."

State-run Korean Central Television (KCTV) also broadcast weather reports warning of the yellow dust in a bid to keep people indoors.

North Korea also announced a nationwide ban on outdoor construction work this week.

The Russian embassy in North Korea revealed foreign diplomats were told to be on alert too.

Diplomats said they were told about new restrictions to avoid Covid being "introduced into the territory of the republic".

The Russian Embassy in Pyongyang wrote on Facebook on Thursday: "As we were told, these measures are due to the fact that Covid-19 can be introduced to the territory of the DPRK along with the ‘yellow dust’ particles."

The virus is spread through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US said: "There is no evidence of efficient spread (i.e. routine, rapid spread) to people far away or who enter a space hours after an infectious person was there."

The yellow dust is sand from Mongolian and Chinese deserts that often blows into North and South Korea several times a year.

However, it is a health threat as it is mixed with toxic dust.

South Korea media have said the yellow dust is unlikely to have spread covid to the north.

This comes as Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju was reported to have disappeared from the public eye.

One of the theories from South Korea is that she is protecting her children from coronavirus by keeping hidden away.

She was last seen with her husband on January 25 at a Lunar New Year performance at a theatre in Pyongyang.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus: North Korea warnings over 'yellow dust coming from China'


(Same story, different news agency)

North Korea has warned its citizens to stay indoors over fears that "yellow dust" which blows in from China could bring coronavirus with it.

The streets of the capital Pyongyang were reported to be virtually empty on Thursday following the warning.

The secretive state claims to be coronavirus-free but has been on high alert since January with strict border closures and restrictions on movement.

There is no known link between the seasonal dust clouds and Covid-19.

However, they are not the only country to suggest a link. The BBC's Disinformation Team notes Turkmenistan also alleged virus-laden dust was the reason citizens were being told to wear masks. They have denied trying to cover up an outbreak.

'Invading malicious viruses'

State-controlled Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcast special weather segments on Wednesday, warning of an influx of the yellow dust the next day. It also announced a nationwide ban on outdoor construction work.

Yellow dust refers to sand from Mongolian and Chinese deserts that blows into North and South Korea at certain times of the year. It is intermingled with toxic dust that for years has raised health concerns in both countries.

S Korea and the mystery of the 'fine dust'

On Thursday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said “all workers… must clearly recognise the danger of invading malicious viruses” in response to the dust cloud, the BBC's Disinformation Team noted.

Embassies also reported receiving a warning about Pyongyang's dust concerns.

The Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said on its Facebook page the North Korean foreign ministry had warned it and other diplomatic missions and international organisations in the country about the dust storm, recommending all foreigners stay at home and tightly close their windows on Thursday.

Could dust clouds bring in Covid-19?

North Korean state media has reasoned that research linking the coronavirus to airborne transmission means it "should take the incoming flow of yellow dust seriously", reported the specialist news site NK News

The US Centres for Disease Control has said coronavirus can remain suspended in the air “for hours”. However, it also says it is extremely rare for someone to be infected this way - especially outdoors. The main way people get infected is from standing in close proximity to someone who is infected who then coughs, sneezes or talks, spreading the virus through droplets.

Media in neighbouring South Korea has also dismissed the suggestion that yellow dust from China could spread Covid-19 to the North as impossible, according to NK News.

Despite claiming the country has no cases of coronavirus, there are deep fears about Covid-19 in North Korea and leader Kim Jong-un has been holding high-level meetings to ensure tight restrictions remain in place.

Analysts have said it is highly unlikely that North Korea has not experienced any coronavirus cases at all.

The dust had cleared from the Korean peninsula by Friday and was forecast to stay that way on the weekend.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Study suggests 5’UTR of SARS-CoV-2 might be of pangolin coronavirus origin

10/26/20 ... rigin.aspx

Findings from a new genomic sequencing study support the hypothesis that the pangolin was the intermediate host for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that enabled transmission of the virus to humans.

SARS-CoV-2 is the agent responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID—19) pandemic that poses an ongoing threat to global public health and the economy.

The study conducted by researchers in Australia and the United States demonstrated the similarity between sequences from SARS-CoV-2, the bat coronavirus RaTG13, and a Guangdong pangolin coronavirus (EPI_ISL_410721).

However, the study also revealed that not only the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 but also its 5' untranslated region (5’UTR) originated in the Guangdong pangolin coronavirus.

ACE2 is the human receptor the virus uses to bind to and fuse with host cells, while the viral 5’UTR is needed to regulate transcription.

“Altogether, our analyses indicate that both the 5’UTR and ACE2-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 genome have a pangolin coronavirus origin,” say Diako Ebrahimi (Texas Biomedical Research Institute) and colleagues from the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of New South Wales.

“Therefore, our data support the hypothesis that the pangolin was the intermediate species for SARS-CoV-2 transmission into humans,” they add.

The study also found no evidence to support the theory that the zinc-finger antiviral protein (ZAP) played a role in the emergence of the virus by targeting its CpG motifs.

Unique features of the SARS-CoV-2 genome

The SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome has unique features that may play a role in its high pathogenicity and cross-species transmission.

So far, comparative genomic studies have shown that, overall, SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to RaTG13, a coronavirus isolated from the intermediate horseshoe bat. However, the genomic sequence coding for the virus's ACE2 binding site also closely resembles the sequence found in a Guangdong pangolin coronavirus.

As well as this unique feature, SARS-CoV-2 also has a low abundance of CpG. The suppression of CpG in viruses is well known, and studies have reported that the CpG composition of positive-strand RNA viral genomes often mimics the CpG content of their hosts.

“This suggests host CpG manipulating mechanisms play a role in shaping +ssRNA viral genomes during cross-species transmission,” write the researchers. “Nevertheless, these molecular mechanisms are not fully understood.”

One suggested mechanism is that these CpG sites are recognized by the host RNA-binding protein ZAP, which is known to bind to CpG-rich regions and induce a viral RNA degradation process.

However, although ZAP has a broad antiviral role, it does not suppress all viruses, says the team.

What did the current study involve?

Ebrahimi and colleagues used a comparative genomics approach to investigate the origin of SARS-CoV-2.

To explore any role that ZAP may play in lowering the CpG content of SARS-CoV-2, the team also analyzed the representations of short sequence motifs in viral genomes, the expression of ZAP, and the preference of ZAP for CpG motifs.

The analyses revealed a high level of similarity between SARS-CoV-2 sequences and those of the bat coronavirus RaTG13 and the Guangdong pangolin coronavirus (EPI_ISL_410721).

However, a high similarity was also observed between the 5’UTR of SARS-CoV-2 and the 5’UTR of the pangolin coronavirus.

This shows that not only the ACE2 binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 but also the 5'UTR of SARS-CoV-2 likely has a pangolin coronavirus origin, says the team.

“This suggests that bat and pangolin coronaviruses have likely recombined at least twice (in the 5’UTR and ACE2 binding domains) to seed the formation of SARS-CoV-2,” write the researchers.

Therefore, the data support the hypothesis that the pangolin was the intermediate species for SARS-CoV-2 transmission into humans, they say.

The team also says it remains to be determined whether the high pathogenicity and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 is due, at least in part, to its unique 5’UTR sequence.

What about the role of ZAP?

The study found no evidence to suggest that the low CpG abundance in SARS-CoV-2 is related to an evolutionary pressure from ZAP.

Changes that were observed in motif representation were not exclusive to CpG. The CpG motifs preferentially targeted by ZAP did not have a lower representation than those that were not often recognized by ZAP.

“This, however, does not imply ZAP plays no role in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2. In fact, it has recently been shown that ZAP can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro,” write the researchers.

“To better understand the role of ZAP and other restriction factors in the inhibition and/or evolution of viruses, a global analysis of viral genomic composition is needed,” they conclude.

*Important Notice

bioRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

Ebrahimi D, et al. Evidence for ZAP-independent CpG reduction in SARS-CoV-2 genome, and pangolin coronavirus origin of 5′UTR. bioRxiv, 2020. doi: , ... 3.351353v1
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Denmark to cull up to 17 million mink amid coronavirus fears


As many as 17 million minks are to be culled in Denmark after a mutated version of the coronavirus that can spread to humans was detected on mink farms.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the mutated virus posed a "risk to the effectiveness" of a future Covid-19 vaccine.

Denmark is the world's biggest producer of mink fur.

Police said the culling should happen as soon as possible.

Coronavirus cases have been detected in mink farms in Denmark's northern Jutland region, and in other parts of Europe, for several months.

But cases are spreading fast in Denmark, and five cases of the new virus strain were found on mink farms. Twelve people had become infected, the authorities said.

Prime Minister Frederiksen described the situation as "very, very serious".

She cited a government report which said the mutated virus had been found to weaken the body's ability to form antibodies, potentially making the current vaccines under development for Covid-19 ineffective.

"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well," she told a news conference.

Minks at more than 1,000 farms are to be culled. Police Chief Thorkild Fogde said it would be a "very large undertaking".

Spain culled 100,000 minks in July after cases were detected at a farm in Aragón province, and tens of thousands of the animals were slaughtered in the Netherlands following outbreaks on farms there.

Studies are under way to find out how and why minks have been able to catch and spread the infection.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Lions and Tigers and Anteaters? US Scientists Scan the Menagerie for COVID

11/4/20 ... for-covid/

As COVID-19 cases surge in the U.S., one Texas veterinarian has been quietly tracking the spread of the disease — not in people, but in their pets.

Since June, Dr. Sarah Hamer and her team at Texas A&M University have tested hundreds of animals from area households where humans contracted COVID-19. They’ve swabbed dogs and cats, sure, but also pet hamsters and guinea pigs, looking for signs of infection. “We’re open to all of it,” said Hamer, a professor of epidemiology, who has found at least 19 cases of infection.

One pet that tested positive was Phoenix, a 7-year-old part-Siamese cat owned by Kaitlyn Romoser, who works in a university lab. Romoser, 23, was confirmed to have COVID-19 twice, once in March and again in September. The second time she was much sicker, she said, and Phoenix was her constant companion.

“If I would have known animals were just getting it everywhere, I would have tried to distance myself, but he will not distance himself from me,” Romoser said. “He sleeps in my bed with me. There was absolutely no social distancing.”

Across the country, veterinarians and other researchers are scouring the animal kingdom for signs of the virus that causes COVID-19. At least 2,000 animals in the U.S. have been tested for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to federal records. Cats and dogs that were exposed to sick owners represent most of the animals tested and 80% of the positive cases found.

But scientists have cast a wide net investigating other animals that could be at risk. In states from California to Florida, researchers have tested species ranging from farmed minks and zoo cats to unexpected critters like dolphins, armadillos and anteaters.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps an official tally of confirmed animal COVID cases that stands at several dozen. But that list is a vast undercount of actual infections. In Utah and Wisconsin, for instance, more than 14,000 minks died in recent weeks after contracting COVID infections initially spread by humans.

So far, there’s limited evidence that animals are transmitting the virus to people. Veterinarians emphasize that pet owners appear to be in no danger from their furry companions and should continue to love and care for them. But scientists say continued testing is one way to remain vigilant in the face of a previously unknown pathogen.

“We just know that coronaviruses, as a family, infect a lot of species, mostly mammals,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and the director of the University of Washington Center for One Health Research in Seattle. “It makes sense to take a species-spanning approach and look at a wide spectrum.”

Much of the testing has been rooted in scientific curiosity. Since the pandemic began, a major puzzle has been how the virus, which likely originated in bats, spread to humans. A leading theory is that it jumped to an intermediate species, still unknown, and then to people.

In April, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 in a first-of-its-kind case after seven big cats showed signs of respiratory illness. The tiger, Nadia, contracted the virus from a caretaker, federal health officials said. Four other tigers and three African lions were also confirmed to be infected.

In Washington state, the site of the first U.S. outbreak in humans, scientists rushed to design a COVID test for animals in March, said Charlie Powell, a spokesperson for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “We knew with warm-blooded animals, housed together, there’s going to be some cross-infection,” he said. Tests for animals use different reagent compounds than those used for tests in people, so they don’t deplete the human supply, Powell added.

Since spring, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory has tested nearly 80 animals, including 38 dogs, 29 cats, two ferrets, a camel and two tamanduas, a type of anteater. The lab also tested six minks from the outbreak in Utah, five of which accounted for the lab’s only positive tests.

All told, nearly 1,400 animals have been tested for COVID-19 through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network or private labs, said Lyndsay Cole, a spokesperson for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. More than 400 animals have been tested through the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. At least 250 more have been tested through academic research projects.

The vast majority of the tests have been in household cats and dogs with suspicious respiratory symptoms. In June, the USDA reported that a dog in New York was the first pet dog to test positive for the coronavirus after falling ill and struggling to breathe. The dog, a 7-year-old German shepherd named Buddy, later died. Officials determined he’d contracted the virus from his owner.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the USDA recommends routine testing for house pets or other animals — but that hasn’t stopped owners from asking, said Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“The questions have become a little more consistent at my practice,” he said. “People do want to know about COVID-19 and their pets. Can their pet pick it up at a clinic or boarding or in doggie day care?”

The answer, so far, is that humans are the primary source of infection in pets. In September, a small, unpublished study from the University of Guelph in Canada found that companion cats and dogs appeared to be infected by their sick owners, judging by antibodies to the coronavirus detected in their blood.

In Texas, Hamer started testing animals from households where someone had contracted COVID-19 to learn more about transmission pathways. “Right now, we’re very much trying to describe what’s happening in nature,” she said.

So far, most of the animals — including Phoenix, Romoser’s cat — have shown no signs of illness or disease. That’s true so far for many species of animals tested for COVID-19, veterinarians said. Most nonhuman creatures appear to weather COVID infection with mild symptoms like sniffles and lethargy, if any.

Still, owners should apply best practices for avoiding COVID infection to pets, too, Kratt said. Don’t let pets come into contact with unfamiliar animals, he suggested. Owners should wash their hands frequently and avoid nuzzling and other very close contact, if possible.

Cats appear to be more susceptible to COVID-19 than dogs, researchers said. And minks, which are farmed in the U.S. and elsewhere for their fur, appear quite vulnerable.

In the meantime, the list of creatures tested for COVID-19 — whether for illness or science — is growing. In Florida, 22 animals had been tested as of early October, including three wild dolphins, two civets, two clouded leopards, a gorilla, an orangutan, an alpaca and a bush baby, state officials said.

In California, 29 animals had been tested by the end of September, including a meerkat, a monkey and a coatimundi, a member of the raccoon family.

In Seattle, a plan to test orcas, or killer whales, in Puget Sound was called off at the last minute after a member of the scientific team was exposed to COVID-19 and had to quarantine, said Dr. Joe Gaydos, a senior wildlife veterinarian and science director for the SeaDoc Society, a conservation program at the University of California-Davis. The group missed its September window to locate the animals and obtain breath and fecal samples for analysis.

No one thinks marine animals will play a big role in the pandemic decimating the human population, Gaydos said. But testing many creatures on both land and sea is vital.

“We don’t know what this virus is going to do or can do,” Gaydos said.
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Spread of mutated coronavirus in Danish mink ‘hits all the scary buttons,’ but fears may be overblown

11/5/20 ... overblown/

Denmark set off alarm bells this week with its announcement that it is culling the nation’s entire mink herd — the largest in the world — to stop spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the prized fur species because of potentially dangerous mutations.

Inter-species jumps of viruses make scientists nervous — as do suggestions of potentially significant mutations that result from those jumps. In this case, Danish authorities say they’ve found some genetic changes that might undermine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines currently in development.

But is this latest twist in the Covid-19 saga reason to be deeply concerned? Several experts STAT consulted suggested the answer to that question is probably not.

“This hits all the scary buttons,” noted Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington. But Bergstrom and others argued that while the virus’s penchant for infecting mink bears watching, it isn’t likely to lead to a nightmare strain that is more effective at infecting people than the current human virus.

“I don’t believe that a strain which gets adapted to mink poses a higher risk to humans,” said Francois Balloux, director of University College London’s Genetics Institute.

“We can never rule out anything, but in principle it shouldn’t. It should definitely not increase transmission. I don’t see any good reason why it should make the virus more severe,” he said.

Let’s take a look at what’s known about the Danish situation, why inter-species jumps make scientists nervous, whether the mutations are likely to affect vaccine effectiveness, and why Balloux thinks this situation is “fantastically interesting.”

What’s happening in the state of Denmark?

Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink; it produces about 28% of the supply of this luxury fur.

Unfortunately, mink are susceptible to the SARS-2 virus, a fact that came to light in April when the Netherlands reported outbreaks on mink farms there. Infected humans who work in the farms transmit the virus to captive minks, which are housed in close quarters ideal for rapid transmission from mink to mink.

Occasionally, the mink infect people — a phenomenon recorded in both the Netherlands and in Denmark. In a statement, the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food said the country would cull its entire herd — estimated to be about 17 million animals — after finding mutations in the viruses from the mink that it believes would allow those viruses to evade the immune protection generated by Covid-19 vaccines.

Why do they think the mutated viruses would evade the vaccines?

Experts outside the country are not clear what that claim is based on. While there has been some information released about the mutations that have been recorded, it isn’t yet enough to support such a bold claim, said Marion Koopmans, head of virology at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where a lot of the analyses from viruses from the Dutch mink outbreaks have been conducted.

“That is a very big statement,” said Koopmans. “A single mutation, I would not expect to have that dramatic an effect.”

Outside experts haven’t had genetic sequencing data to peruse, said Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine in Bern, Switzerland. But Denmark uploaded 500 genetic sequences into databases open to scientists around the globe on Thursday, and is expected to add hundreds more in the days to come.

Experts will pore over those sequences looking for what the Danes saw and to try to determine what impact these mutations may have if viruses containing them infect people.

For now, however, Hodcroft agrees with Koopmans. “It’s almost never the case that it’s such a simple story of one mutation and all your vaccines stop working.”

She, frankly, is more concerned with how the announcement was handled than about the findings themselves. “It puts scientists and the public in a really difficult position when we have statements like this out there for which we have very little information or context,” Hodcroft said. “These things are essentially never black and white.”

What’s the big deal of species jumps anyway?

Species jumps always make scientists nervous. One such event, after all, is how we ended up with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Viruses that typically infect one kind of animal — let’s use bats as an example — that find their way into another species can trigger severe illness in the new species if the virus is able to transmit efficiently. Viruses can become entrenched — endemic — in the new species.

It’s thought, for instance, that the four coronaviruses — cousins of SARS-2 — that cause common colds spilled over from other species into humans at some point in the past. Flu virus spillover events — from poultry or from pigs — occur from time to time. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was triggered when a flu virus that had been circulating in pigs started infecting people.

After years of coping with viral spillovers like Ebola outbreaks, flu pandemics plus the earlier coronavirus jumps like the 2003 SARS outbreak, people are primed to be worried about these events, Bergstrom said.

But this is a different situation, he said. It’s not a virus unknown to humans that has jumped from an animal species. In this case, a virus that has already adapted to spreading among people jumped to minks and is now occasionally jumping back.

Bergstrom thinks it’s prudent of the Danish government to cull the mink herd. But he’s not sure the changes that have occurred in the mink are likely to make the virus worse for people.

“We’re used to being scared before a pandemic when something from a distant species comes into a nearer species. And our intuitions aren’t quite right for what happens in the middle of a pandemic when something goes from us into a distant species and then comes back,” he said.

Balloux and others suggested the changes seen in the mink viruses may be a sign of the virus adapting to infect minks — which might make the viruses less effective in people over time.

Capturing a spillover in real time

Balloux pegs the risk the spillover poses to humans as being “really, really small.”

But he said it is exceptional to actually be able to capture in real time what happens when a spillover happens, and chart the genetic changes from the start.

Typically when such events occur, humans only recognize what’s going on when a virus has adapted to spread in people. For example, the early changes that made SARS-2 capable of transmitting from a still unknown animal species to people were never observed.

“It’s completely exceptional,” Balloux said. “We are always [too] late.”
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Re: Airborne Dust / Zoonosis / Land Use

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus live news: 200 people in Denmark infected with mink-related Covid since June

11/6/20 ... ily-deaths

More than 200 Danish cases of mink-related Covid since June

In Denmark, the State Serum Institute, which deals with infectious diseases, has found 214 people infected with mink-related versions of coronavirus since June.

Its website reported the findings on 5 November. It is one strain of the mutated coronavirus, which has prompted Denmark to cull its entire herd of mink. That strain has, however, been found in only 12 people and on five mink farms so far.
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