An animal model that fully recapitulates severe COVID-19 presentation in humans has been a top priority since the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 in 2019. Although multiple animal models are available for mild to moderate clinical disease, models that develop severe disease are still needed. Mink experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed severe acute respiratory disease, as evident by clinical respiratory disease, radiological, and histological changes. Virus was detected in nasal, oral, rectal, and fur swabs. Deep sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 from oral swabs and lung tissue samples showed repeated enrichment for a mutation in the gene encoding nonstructural protein 6 in open reading frame 1ab. Together, these data indicate that American mink develop clinical features characteristic of severe COVID-19 and, as such, are uniquely suited to test viral countermeasures.
Danielle R. Adney, Jamie Lovaglio, Jonathan E. Schulz, Claude Kwe Yinda, Victoria A. Avanzato, Elaine Haddock, Julia R. Port, Myndi G. Holbrook, Patrick W. Hanley, Greg Saturday, Dana Scott, Carl Shaia, Andrew M. Nelson, Jessica R. Spengler, Cassandra Tansey, Caitlin M. Cossaboom, Natalie M. Wendling, Craig Martens, John Easley, Seng Wai Yap, Stephanie N. Seifert, Vincent J. Munster
High levels of viral replication in the respiratory tract of infected mink.