A virus that is 96 percent identical to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was found in an abandoned mine in China seven years ago, according to a study.
The bat-infested copper mine in Mojiang, western China, was home to a coronavirus in which six adult men contracted pneumonia and three died.
Scientists took samples of the feces from the bats found at the bottom of the cave and stored them for years in a laboratory 1,000 miles away in Wuhan as they studied them.
And last December, Wuhan became the source of a global coronavirus pandemic that has now infected more than 11 million people and killed 525,000.
That virus, then called RaBtCoV / 4991, now seems to be most closely related to SARS-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19, a Sunday Times research has found.
But Chinese researchers don’t seem to have told about the fact that they found such a similar virus almost ten years ago in 2012, and especially that it killed three men when it was discovered.
The virus reportedly appeared in only one publicly available scientific paper and that did not mention the fact that it had caused fatal pneumonia in humans.
A scientist said the research trail suggests that Covid-19 may have broken out to people in a rural area of China near Mojiang, then transported to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, where it caused a global pandemic
The discovery that something similar to Covid-19 was circulating in bats in Mojiang – half of the bats tested in the mine carried at least one type of coronavirus – has cast doubt on the true source of SARS-CoV-2.
The official story is that an animal’s Covid-19 virus – believed to be a pangolin – has sprung into humans at Hunan Seafood Market in Wuhan city.
From there, it spread to the population in the densely populated city, which is a transportation hub, and then on trains and planes and around the world within weeks.
But it could have spread elsewhere first, and even the Chinese authorities have since admitted that the market was more of a “victim” of the epidemic than the source.
Dr. Peter Daszak, a British animal diseases expert, told The Sunday Times: “It didn’t hit the market, it originated somewhere else.”
He suggested that it had already spread around the mine in rural Mojiang and then erupted in Wuhan, which is home to 11 million people.
“It is reasonably believed to have ended up in animals in southern China and then shipped to Wuhan via infected people or trade-related animals.”
The RaBtCoV / 4991 virus appears to have caused a disease extremely similar to Covid-19 and has a genetic code corresponding to 96.2 percent.
The six men who became sick with the virus in 2012 did so after being assigned to the mine to remove the feces from the bat – it’s not clear exactly how it infected them.
But the men, who ranged in age from 30 to 63, all needed intensive care in the hospital.
They all had a high fever, body aches and coughs, and five of them had trouble breathing.
All symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, and they tested negative for all the tropical diseases the doctors could think of, but two of them later tested positive in blood samples because they were infected with SARS or a SARS-like coronavirus.
The theory is the latest in a long line to suggest the possible origin of the Covid-19 virus, many of which lead to wild bats in China.
Many scientific theories have associated Covid-19 with bats, which usually carry coronaviruses, suggesting that it went through another type of animal brought to a busy market – possibly a pangolin (stock image of bats)
US CLAIMS THE PANDEMIA STARTED IN WUHAN LAB
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May that there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
“There is a lot of evidence that this started. We said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China, ‘said Pompeo on ABC’s This Week.
“We have been very sad from the beginning. But I think the whole world can see it now. Don’t forget that China has a history of infecting the world and they have a history of running substandard laboratories, ”he added.
“This is not the first time a world has been exposed to viruses due to malfunctions in a Chinese laboratory,” said Pompeo.
Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said he agreed with a statement by the U.S. intelligence community in which he agreed “with the broad scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus is not human-made or genetically modified.” .
But President Donald Trump was critical of China’s role in the pandemic, insisting that Beijing recklessly hide important information about the outbreak and demanded that China be held “responsible.”
Trump has reportedly ordered American spies to learn more about the virus’s origins, first blaming a Wuhan market that sells exotic animals like bats, but is now believed to be from a nearby virus research lab.
That month, Trump claimed to have seen evidence that coronavirus had started in Wuhan’s virology lab and warned he could charge China a $ 1 trillion rate in retaliation for the pandemic.
‘Yes I have. Yes, ”Trump said when asked if he had seen evidence that the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Technology.
The lab is located near a wet market identified as the likely epicenter of the outbreak that occurred late last year.
However, the president would not disclose evidence that confirmed his suspicions, at the request of a reporter.
“I can’t tell you that. I can’t tell you that, ”he replied.
It is now generally accepted that the virus first started in bats and then infected another animal – such as a pangolin or a snake – and turned into something that could be transmitted to humans.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now ruled that the Wuhan market was a “victim” of the corona virus rather than its source.
A study of the animals sold there rules out the theory, they said, after all samples of the animals on the market were tested negative for Covid-19, meaning they couldn’t have infected customers.
“It now appears that the market is one of the victims,” Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese CDC, told Chinese state media in a radio interview in May.
A zoologist at Georgetown University, Colin Carlson said the coronavirus outbreak related to the wet market was probably the site of a “ super spreader ” event in which one person spread the virus to many other people.
The revelation is likely to heighten speculation that the virus was leaking from a Chinese research lab, including that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who said he had seen evidence that it had started in a virology lab.
However, both American and Chinese researchers say there is no evidence to support this theory.
A majority of the original 41 cases of COVID-19 reported to the World Health Organization in December were linked to the 116-acre market in Wuhan.
This led to the wet market closing on January 1. According to reports, the majority of 3,600 stores were reopened on April 14.
However, scientists at Harvard, MIT and the University of British Columbia examined four samples from the fish market and found that traces of the virus ‘99.9 percent ‘were identical to those of a Wuhan patient.
This suggests that the virus detected in the samples came from infected visitors or suppliers, indicating that ‘Sars-CoV-2 has been imported into the market by humans’.
“The publicly available genetic data does not indicate transmission of the virus between species on the market,” said Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, and Shing Zhan, an evolutionary biologist, who were involved in the study.
Gao Fu seemed to contradict these findings – and the statement he has now made that the market is not responsible for the outbreak – in an interview for Chinese state television in January.
He said the virus was found not only in people’s bodies, but also in wild meat stalls, prompting him to stop consuming wild animals.
The study reinforces the research published in January by a team of Chinese researchers, which found that the first person with a confirmed coronavirus was likely exposed on December 1 – with symptoms on December 8.
The ‘patient zero’ – the first person to actually get COVID-19 in Wuhan – has not been confirmed, but authorities believe it is a 55-year-old man from Hubei Province who was infected on November 17.
This suggests that the virus had gone unnoticed in the human population around Wuhan for weeks before the ‘super spreader event’ hit the market.
“The new coronavirus destroys much of what people have known and many of its patterns are beyond our knowledge,” said George Gao Fu of the Chinese CDC.