Previously unavailable genetic data suggests the COVID pandemic originated in animals, not a laboratory, in what some experts call “by far the strongest evidence to support animal origins.”
After analyzing data from samples collected at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, an international team of scientists discovered that raccoon dogs being sold illegally in the market could have been carrying and spreading the virus in late 2019. .
The head of the World Health Organization acknowledged the findings, saying the information could lead scientists to reach a consensus on the origins of the current COVID-19 crisis, which has killed nearly 7 million people worldwide. the world in just over three years.
“These data do not provide a definitive answer as to how the pandemic started, but each piece of data is important in getting us closer to that answer,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Friday.
He also criticized China, adding that “this data could and should have been shared three years ago.”
The samples were collected from surfaces in the market between January 1, 2020 and March 2, 2020, when the Chinese authorities closed the market.
The genetic sequences were uploaded to the world’s largest public virus database in late January by scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. a french scientist I came across the data by chance earlier this month.
Florence Débarre, an evolutionary biologist theorist working at France’s National Research Agency, found the information while doing other research on the database on March 4.
He shared the information with two other scientists investigating the origin of the coronavirus: Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona.
Genetic sequencing showed that some of the loaded samples, which had tested positive for the coronavirus, also contained genetic material from raccoon dogs, the researchers found.
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While the discovery doesn’t prove that animals triggered the pandemic, scientists believe it makes it more likely.
“He the data points even further to a market origin,” Andersen told Science magazine.
On Tuesday, the group presented their findings to the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, a panel of experts that advises the WHO on technical and scientific considerations regarding emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
“The market environmental sampling data released by the China CDC is by far the strongest evidence to support animal origins,” said Ray Yip, one of the founding members of the US CDC office. in China. He was not connected to the analysis.
Last month, the US Department of Energy said the virus emerged from a research laboratory, one of several different conclusions from the country’s intelligence agencies and experts around the world.
The department’s conclusion was issued with “low confidence.”
with cable news services