COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A potential vaccine candidate being developed in Denmark has in early animal trials proven effective against a mutated novel coronavirus strain from mink discovered in the country, a scientist working on the vaccine said on Thursday.
Authorities last week embarked on a plan to cull Denmark's 17 million mink, one of the world's largest populations, saying a recently discovered strain found in mink farms and humans could evade future COVID-19 vaccines.
Early studies of the mutated virus strain, known as Cluster 5, showed the virus to have a reduced sensitivity towards antibodies, possibly compromising the efficacy of future vaccines, authorities said last week.
But antibodies from rabbits treated with an early-stage vaccine candidate from Denmark's State Serum Institute (SSI) successfully beat down the Cluster 5 variant, according to Anders Fomsgaard, leading scientist at SSI, which deals with infectious diseases.
"We couldn't resist testing the rabbit antibodies we have against Cluster 5, and it works," Fomsgaard told Danish broadcaster DR on Thursday.
The vaccine candidate, which is in early stages of development, will soon move to human trials at which it is uncertain if it will have the same effect.
"Whether this also applies to other vaccines and whether it applies to human antibodies, we do not know," Fomsgaard said.
Reuters was unable to reach Fomsgaard for comment.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a risk assessment on Thursday there is "currently high uncertainty" about the potential threat posed by the spread of the virus into mink, its mutations, and its consequent spread back into people.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London; Editing by Nick Macfie)