Recently released genetic data from Wuhan found raccoon dog DNA mixed with the COVID-19 virus.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized China for not sharing the data sooner.
Since the first COVID-19 death in Wuhan on January 11, 2020, the virus has killed 6,873,477 people worldwide.
Newly released genetic data from the wet market near where scientists discovered the first human cases of COVID-19 showed raccoon dog DNA mixed with the virus.
According to The Atlantic, one of the first outlets to report the results, data from late 2019 – when the first cases of COVID-19 began to emerge – shows that some of the COVID-positive samples taken from a stand known to being involved in the wildlife trade also contained raccoon dog genes.
This suggests the virus may have infected animals, scientists say.
The data has not been formally reviewed or published in a peer-reviewed journal, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said said the data does not provide “a definitive answer to how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in bringing us closer to that answer.”
However, international health experts said the finding adds credence to the theory that the COVID-19 virus came from animals instead of a lab leak.
The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also offered exotic game and wild animals for sale, has come under scientific suspicion as the original source of COVID-19.
The Chinese team collected environmental samples from the Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, according to Florence Débarre, a theorist specializing in evolutionary biology and working at the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique, or CNRS, a national research agency. French, unearthed the data, according to science.
Speaking to Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research who analyzed the data, said “the data points even more to a commercial origin.”
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist involved in the research, told the Atlantic that “this is a very strong indication that animals in the market were infected.”
“It really strengthens the case for a natural origin,” said Seema Lakdawala, a virologist at Emory University.
The DNA comes from raccoon dogs, small foxtail animals native to East Asia.
This data is not new, but the genetic sequence was recently uploaded to the global GISAID database by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and then deleted, Ghebreyesus said.
While it was online, scientists downloaded and began analyzing the data.
Tedros criticized China for not sharing the data sooner. “This data could and should have been shared three years ago,” he said. said.
“We continue to call on China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct necessary investigations and share findings. Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and scientific imperative,” Tedros said. added.
This is just the latest example of the Chinese government refusing to share data with other nations.
Since the first death from COVID-19 – which was recorded in Wuhan, China, on January 11, 2020 – the virus has killed 6,873,477 people worldwide, according to WHO data.
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