No Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Wild Mink (Mustela lutreola and Neogale vison) from Northern Spain during the First Two Years of Pandemic.
The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on wildlife is largely unevaluated, and extended surveillance of animal species is needed to reach a consensus on the role of animals in the emergence and maintenance of SARS-CoV-2. This infection has been detected in farmed and domestic animals and wild animals, mainly in captivity. The interactions or shared resources with wildlife could represent a potential transmission pathway for the SARS-CoV-2 spill over to other wild species and could lead to health consequences or the establishment of new reservoirs in susceptible hosts. This study evaluated the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in European mink (Mustela lutreola) and American mink (Neogale vison) in Spain by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using the receptor binding domain (RBD) of Spike antigen in serum samples and/or by RT-qPCR assays in oropharyngeal and rectal swabs. From January 2020 to February 2022, a total of 162 animals (127 European mink and 35 American mink) with no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection were included in the study. Antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 were not found in the serum samples analysed (n = 126), nor was the virus amplified by RT-qPCR (n = 160 swabs). Our results suggest that the potential role of wild mink and the European mink bred in captivity and released to the wild as dispersers of SARS-CoV-2 is so far low. However, wildlife surveillance for early detection of human and animal risks should be continued. In this sense, epidemiological monitoring measures, including serology and molecular analysis, are necessary.