However figuring out when, and in whom, the mutations first appeared requires many extra virus samples from farm staff, native residents and mink, collected earlier than and after the outbreak. “That information doesn’t exist,” mentioned Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist on the College of Saskatchewan.
All through 2020, testing was troublesome for Individuals to entry and few affected person samples have been being sequenced. Surveillance in animals was even worse; till this spring, federal officers explicitly really helpful in opposition to routinely testing animals for the virus.
“Widespread testing wasn’t obtainable, then there turned a scarcity of sure provides,” Dr. Behravesh mentioned. “So we didn’t need there to be, you already know, a mad rush to check animals.”
With out extra samples, it’s inconceivable to rule out the likelihood that the variant emerged in people, who then unfold it to mink, scientists mentioned.
A much bigger puzzle is how the taxidermist and his spouse received it. The most definitely chance, a number of specialists mentioned, is that the variant was circulating extra broadly within the human inhabitants than was identified, and the couple caught it from one other contaminated particular person.
One other, extra speculative, chance is that they picked up the variant from one other animal species. “Taxidermists cope with different lifeless animals,” mentioned Linda Saif, a virologist and immunologist at Ohio State College.
However as a result of the circumstances have been detected “weeks to months” after the 2 fell sick, testing any animals they might have been in touch with “was both not possible or not indicated,” mentioned Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan D.H.H.S.