Coronavirus did not originate at Wuhan wet market, taken there by someone already infected with it: Study

The scientists, who dug into the origin of the virus, also added that they were surprised to learn that the virus was "already pre-adapted to human transmission"


                            Coronavirus did not originate at Wuhan wet market, taken there by someone already infected with it: Study
(Getty Images)

A recent study suggests that coronavirus might not have originated from a wild animal market in Wuhan, contrary to the popular belief, leaving open the possibility that the virus may have escaped from a lab in China.

According to Daily Mail, specialist biologists who analyzed coronavirus in a landmark study have revealed that there was evidence pointing at the fact that the virus was taken into the market by someone already infected with it. The scientists, who dug into the origin of the virus, also added that they were surprised to learn that the virus was "already pre-adapted to human transmission."

"The publicly available genetic data does not point to cross-species transmission of the virus at the market," said Yujia Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, and Shing Zhan, an evolutionary biologist. "The possibility that a non-genetically engineered precursor could have adapted to humans while being studied in a laboratory should be considered."

The research was conducted by Chan and Benjamin Deverman from the Broad Institute alongside Shing Hei Zhan from the University of British Columbia. It called for the reexamination of the ‘zoonotic’ routes (animal to human) of the virus, which in the case of coronavirus was bats to humans.  

For the study, genetic samples from Covid-19 patients were compared with those from the coronavirus of the 2002-04 SARS epidemic, which also originated from bats. The conclusion of the research was that the new coronavirus "resembles SARSCoV in the late phase of the 2003 epidemic". The similarity raised concerns about whether COVID-19 had evolved as a "highly infectious" form of the decades-old virus as it spread across the world. 

The fact that Covid-19 appeared "without peer in late 2019", suggested that "there was a single introduction of the human-adapted form of the virus into the human population." The scientists also went ahead and genetically compared four samples containing the virus from the animal market with those collected from a patient in Wuhan in December, which revealed a 99.9 percent match. The results caused the experts to point at the theory that "Sars-CoV-2 had been imported into the market by humans".

Speculation that the virus was leaked from a lab in China which was working on bat-borne diseases has been both backed and denied by different agencies in the United States. While President Donald Trump continues to support the unproven theory, American health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he is "very, very strongly leaning toward the idea" that "this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated." The World Health Organization has also backed Fauci's inclination. "The evidence is highly suggestive that the outbreak is associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Beijing, which had peddled the theory of COVID-19 being carried into China by American soldiers competing at a sports contest, recently said that it was "only a matter of time" before they identified the crossover species behind the transmission of the disease from bats to humans. 

Following the new revelations, the United Kingdom has joined in the growing calls for an international inquiry into the outbreak. "We need to get to the bottom of many things in relation to Covid-19," said Tory MP Bob Seely, a member of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee. "We need to know where this virus began, why we were told at one time there was no human transmission, and what was the role of the Chinese Communist Party."

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