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One Health Genomics: COVID-19 Adaptation investigation in mink (and spillover to other animals) COVID-19 AIM project

COV200
  • Project Leaders: Natalie Prystajecky
  • Institutions: BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
  • Budget: $450000
  • Program/Competition: COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

There is a critical need to monitor for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. The SARS-CoV-2 virus replicates with the potential for mutation within the human population as well as within animal populations that encounter humans. Farmed mink are of particular interest since they have also been shown to transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus back to humans. Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 within mink is a critical dimension of managing this pandemic and building preparedness for the emergence of future zoonotic pathogens.

This project aims to address this critical need by:

  • Creating a SARS-CoV-2 zoonotic monitoring program for mink and other spillover hosts to be on the alert for strain mutation. 
  • Building a strategic “One Health” genomics partnership between the BC Centre for Disease Control and BC's Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries that will endure past project end.

Despite SARS-CoV-2 arising due to zoonotic transmission from animal to human, there has been relatively little investment in SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in animal hosts. The conditions that gave SARS-CoV-2 the opportunity to arise are also set to increase as we head into 2021 and beyond:  Climate change and human encroachment on animal habitats suggest more diseases like SARS-CoV-2 will emerge. The intersection of human and animal health, the One Health approach, is therefore an important area of effort and investment. The current pandemic and the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to and from mink has created a focused opportunity to pilot a One Health strategy, overcoming both scientific and collaborative challenges to address current and future threats.