The CDC has officially launched the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3) program to increase the number and representativeness of viruses undergoing characterization.
Beginning in January 2021 states will send CDC at least 10 samples biweekly for sequencing and further characterization. This new surveillance program by the CDC will also actively seek samples of interest which can include animal infections. This is important program since outbreaks have been reported on mink farms recently in Denmark which concerned the government enough to have all the farms “cull” their minks. Scientist from Copenhagen first raised the alert after detecting mutations in strains of coronavirus found in mink. Mutations can spike the protein in COVID which could impact the efficacy of the vaccines being developed. It is expected that more than 17 million mink will be culled including it’s breeding stock.
Denmark is not the first country to report outbreaks on fur farms but it is the world’s biggest producer and mink farming will be outlawed by spring next year. At least one in five farms in Denmark has reported infections.
Data from the surveillance program will be continuously analyzed at CDC, and genomic data are rapidly uploaded to public databases for use by researchers, public health agencies, and industry. To coordinate US sequencing efforts outside of CDC, since early in the pandemic, CDC has led a national coalition of laboratories sequencing SARS-CoV-2. This is a global collaboration and the SPHERES coalition consists of more than 160 institutions, including academic centers, industry, non-governmental organizations, and public health agencies.