New evidence suggests that the prevailing theory on where SARS-CoV-2 entered into humans is not in any way correct.
Scientists now do not have a clear idea of the source of the coronavirus after the Chinese Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that findings showed that the outbreak did not start at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China.
“It now turns out that the market is one of the victims,” said Chinese CDC Director Gao Fu, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The virus was identified on December 31, 2019 after authorities in the city of Wuhan reported a new, strange illness to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Scientists believe the new coronavirus came from bats in China, going by genetic evidence. Its genome has the closest affinity to those of other coronaviruses that researchers isolated from horseshoe bats there.
However, there has been some debate on where exactly the virus first jumped to humans.
Wuhan authorities first reported infections with the virus at the local seafood market. This made scientists think that the location might have been where the pathogen found its way into humans.
This assumption was a likely one because wet markets offer a good avenue for disease transmission. The markets usually feature a wide variety of animal species that come in contact with humans.
The coronavirus to blame for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was traced to a wet market. It was believed to have moved from bats to civets and then jumped into humans.
Investigating the origin
While most people tend to believe that the outbreak started at the Wuhan seafood market, there has been some debate on where it was really the origin.
Environmental samples taken from the market showed that the pathogen had been on surfaces there.
Chinese CDC researchers decided to probe the source of the virus further. They collected samples from animals sold at the market for testing. Their investigation bared no trace of it in the animals.
It is only possible for a pathogen to jump to humans from animals only if the latter has it.
A Georgetown University professor concluded that the Wuhan market might have only been the place of a “superspreader event.” What this means is that an individual with the virus likely spread it to other people there.
“I haven’t seen anything that makes me feel, as a researcher who studies zoonotic disease, that this market is a likely option,” Colin Carlson told Live Science.
The US-based zoology professor, who does not work for the Chinese CDC, said his counterparts in China carried out their research in line with international standards.
Most researchers also believe that the virus did not escape from a Chinese laboratory as some people have theorized. It was suggested that the pathogen probably escaped accidentally from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where coronaviruses are studied.
However, it appears the virus had been spreading in the city of Wuhan before the first 41 cases were identified. In January, researchers found that 13 of those cases had no link whatsoever to the seafood market.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the index case was possibly a 55-year-old man in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. The patient was believed to have contracted the virus on November 7, according to government documents.
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