New research indicates the possibility of a wild animal source for Covid-19 in the Wuhan Market. This' of course does not demonstrate that the lab release is not the source of Covid-19
Source: Science | AAAS
Unearthed genetic sequences from China market may point to animal origin of COVID-19
French scientist finds previously undisclosed data from Chinese research team
- Market in Wuhan, China, on 1 January 2020 after doctors noticed cluster of unusual pneumonia cases linked to it.DAKE KANG/ASSOCIATED PRESSSHARE:A scientific sleuth in France has identified previously undisclosed genetic data from a food market in Wuhan, China, that she and colleagues say support the theory that coronavirus-infected animals there triggered the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of the researchers presented their findings on Tuesday to the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), an expert group convened last year by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The data does point even further to a market origin,” says Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research who attended the meeting and is one of the scientists analyzing the new data. If so, the findings weaken the view of a vocal minority that a virology lab in Wuhan was the likely origin of SARS-CoV-2, perhaps when the coronavirus infected a lab worker who spread it further.
Florence Débarre, a theoretician who specializes in evolutionary biology and works at CNRS, the French national research agency, unearthed the data, which consist of genetic sequences posted in GISAID, a virology database, by Chinese researchers. The Chinese team had collected environmental samples from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was connected to a cluster of early COVID-19 cases and despite its name also sold a variety of mammals for food. Since Débarre spotted the sequences, GISAID has removed them, noting that this was at the request of the submitter.
Given that the mystery of SARS-CoV-2’s origin has been a matter of intense global interest and divisive debate, the data’s discovery and subsequent disappearance will certainly raise questions about why the Chinese team—which includes the former head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), George Gao—did not make the sequences public earlier. Contacted by Science, Gao said the sequences are “[n]othing new. It had been known there was illegal animal dealing and this is why the market was immediately shut down.”
But Andersen and his colleagues hope Gao’s team will now make the sequences widely available. “We have urged China CDC and our colleagues there to release this data as soon as possible,” he says.
Gao’s team used swabs to collect environmental samples from many of the stalls of the Huanan market between 1 January 2020, the day it was shut down, and 2 March 2020. The group reported last year that some of the samples that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 also had human genetic material, but no DNA from other animals. The team concluded in a preprint posted on Research Square
on 25 February 2022 that this “highly suggests” humans brought the virus to the market; Gao and his co-authors said this meant the marketplace was not the origin of the pandemic but simply amplified early spread of SARS-CoV-2.