Recent data on the origins of COVID-19 suggest that raccoon dogs in Chinese markets may have played a role.
According to international experts, genetic material gathered from a Chinese market located close to where the initial human cases of COVID-19 were detected has revealed a mixture of raccoon dog DNA and the virus. This provides further support for the theory that the virus originated from animals rather than from a laboratory.
As per Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization, while these findings do not offer a conclusive explanation for the origin of the pandemic, every piece of data shared as BNN world news is significant in helping us advance towards a better understanding of it.
The origin of the coronavirus is still uncertain. Although many scientists believe that it probably crossed over from animals to humans, as has happened with numerous viruses in the past, at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, several labs in Wuhan are involved in the collection and investigation of coronaviruses, which have fueled plausible theories that the virus may have escaped from one of them.
The latest discoveries do not provide a definitive answer to this question, and they have not been subjected to formal peer review by other experts or published in a peer-reviewed journal.
During a press briefing, Tedros rebuked China for withholding the genetic information and stated that “this data could have and should have been shared three years ago.”
The samples were obtained from surfaces within the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, where the initial human cases of COVID-19 were identified in late 2019 and during the early months of 2020.
Tedros indicated that the genetic sequences were recently made public on the world’s largest public virus database by scientists working at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers’ data
The data was subsequently taken down, but not before a French biologist fortuitously came across it and shared it with a team of scientists who are investigating the origins of the coronavirus and are located outside of China.
The researchers maintain that the data illustrates that some of the samples that tested positive for COVID-19 and were obtained from a stall associated with the wildlife trade contained genes from raccoon dogs, indicating that these animals could have been infected by the virus. The analysis of this data was first covered in The Atlantic.
Raccoon dogs, which are called such due to their facial resemblance to raccoons, are frequently raised for their fur and traded as a source of meat at animal markets throughout China.
What do experts have to say?
Stephen Goldstein, a virologist at the University of Utah who participated in examining the information, stated that “there’s a strong likelihood that the animals that left behind that DNA also left behind the virus. If one were to conduct environmental sampling following a zoonotic spillover event, this is essentially what one would anticipate discovering.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, warned that the research did not discover the virus in any animal, nor did it provide concrete evidence that animals transmitted the disease to humans.
Van Kerkhove stated, “What this does provide is potential leads to assist us in comprehending what might have occurred.” Additionally, she stated that the international team informed WHO that the samples obtained from the seafood market also contained DNA from other animals, in addition to raccoon dogs.
According to Ray Yip, an epidemiologist and one of the founders of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s China branch, even though the results are not conclusive, the findings are noteworthy. The most convincing evidence to date supporting the hypothesis of animal origins, according to Yip, is the environmental sample data from the market that the Chinese CDC has published. disagreements and research.
Research and disagreements
The genetic sequence of the coronavirus is remarkably similar to that of bat coronaviruses, leading many researchers to believe that COVID-19 was transmitted to humans directly from bats or through an intermediate host such as pangolins, ferrets, or raccoon dogs.
The investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has been hampered by several factors, including the overwhelming number of human infections during the pandemic’s initial two years and a growing contentious political disagreement.
Experts studying the SARS virus took over a decade to identify its animal origin that turned out to be a trending BNN world news. Goldstein and his colleagues believe that their analysis provides the first definitive indication that the wildlife at the market may have been infected with the coronavirus. However, it is also plausible that humans introduced the virus to the market and infected the raccoon dogs or that infected individuals inadvertently left traces of the virus near the animals.
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