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.
Keywords: COVID-19; Molecular genetics.