New studies say Wuhan market is the only 'plausible' source of COVID-19 pandemic (2022)

New studies say Wuhan market is the only 'plausible' source of COVID-19 pandemic (1)

Not long after the World Health Organization and China released a report last year dismissing the possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in a lab leak, scientists from major research institutions around the world noted the paucity of the published data, and advocated for a rigorous scientific investigation into the pandemic’s origins.

An international team of experts responded to that outcry Tuesday with two complementary papers published in the journal Science. Using different analytical approaches, both papers identify Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market as the epicenter of the pandemic that has since killed more than 6.4 million people worldwide.

Though the exact species of animal isn’t yet known, the authors conclude that SARS-CoV-2 was most likely present in animals sold at the market in late 2019, and jumped into human workers or shoppers in at least two separate instances.

(Video) Wuhan Market Ground Zero for the Covid-19 pandemic, confirm two studies

“In a city covering more than 3,000 square miles, the area with the highest probability of containing the home of someone who had one of the earliest COVID-19 cases in the world was an area of a few city blocks, with the Huanan market smack dab inside it,” Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona virologist who co-authored one of the new studies, said in a statement.

“All this evidence tells us the same thing: It points right to this particular market in the middle of Wuhan,” echoed study co-author Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

“Any other version — a lab leak, for example — would have to explain all this other evidence, and in my view,” he added, "that's just not plausible."

In the early days of the pandemic, before SARS-CoV-2 had circulated widely in the U.S., Andersen wrote to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressing concern that the new virus had features of being engineered by humans.

As the research evolved, so did his thinking.

“I was quite convinced of the lab leak myself until we dove into this very carefully and looked at it much closer,” Andersen said. “Actually, the data points to this particular market.”

Worobey also has had his doubts about the Huanan market origin story. He was one of 18 experts who published an open letter last year in the journal Science that lobbied for a more thorough investigation into the possibility that the virus had inadvertently escaped from a research laboratory.

(Video) origins of covid

“I’ve seen no evidence that I can look at and say, ‘Oh, OK, this certainly refutes the accidental lab origin and makes it virtually 100% certain that it was a natural event,’” he said at the time. “Until we’re at the stage, both possibilities are viable.”

Worobey went on to conduct a detailed accounting of the earliest cases of what was then considered a pneumonia of unknown origin. He reported in Science that a 41-year-old accountant who had been flagged as the first COVID-19 patient on Dec. 8 actually had a fever due to dental surgery. The accountant appeared to have contracted the coronavirus eight days later, but that was days after a seafood vendor from the Huanan market sought treatment for what was probably COVID-19.

The teams behind the new studies consisted of more than 30 researchers from 20 different institutions around the world. They divided their work broadly into two parts: one tracing the virus’ initial appearance in animals and people, the other analyzing genomic data from the earliest cases.

In the first study, the team was able to analyze the location of nearly all COVID-19 cases identified by WHO in December 2019, 155 of which were in Wuhan. The sickest patients in that first month of the outbreak were all clustered around the market.

By January and February, as the virus spread, the highest concentrations of infections moved from the neighborhood surrounding the market to the city’s most densely-populated areas.

Furthermore, swabs taken from surfaces in the market itself were significantly more likely to come back positive from cages and stalls selling live animals vulnerable to the coronavirus, including red foxes and raccoon dogs. Those animals were likely infected from bats or other farm animals known to harbor the coronavirus.

The second study looked at the genomic sequence of the virus in the pandemic’s early days. Researchers identified two distinct SARS-CoV-2 lineages, which suggests that the virus leapt into the human population in two separate instances.

(Video) Covid-19: Hunt for Covid’s Origin Points to China's Animal Trade

“Before embarking on this research, we were very unclear on how lineage A and lineage B related to each other, and if they both had occurred in or around the Huanan market,” said Dr. Marc Suchard, a biostatistician at UCLA Fielding School who worked on the study. The data showed that both versions of the virus circulated at the market, suggesting there were at least two separate cases of successful virus transmission from animals to humans. “It’s approximately 60 times more likely that you have multiple introductions,” Suchard said.

The studies are an indirect response to a WHO-commissioned report on the pandemic’s origins that was published in March 2021. Using data supplied by China, the report ranked four possible scenarios for the pandemic’s genesis from “extremely unlikely” to “very likely.”

That report identified the most likely cause of the pandemic as a viral leap from a host species to humans via an intermediary animal. An accidental release of virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or another laboratory was deemed least likely.

The other two theories studied included a direct jump from an animal host to a human (“possible to likely”) and surface transmission from frozen food products (“possible”).

Almost as soon as the report was published, scientists around the world expressed concern. In May 2021, Science published the open letter from Worobey and researchers at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other leading institutions that called for a more thorough investigation.

It wasn’t that the report’s conclusions seemed implausible, they argued. The problem, scientists wrote, was that the report didn’t appear to offer enough solid evidence to support any conclusion at all.

“On all accounts, it was not an adequate, detailed kind of presentation of data that would allow an outside scientist to arrive at an independent conclusion,” Dr. David Relman, a co-author of the letter and professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, told The Times when the letter was published.

(Video) More Proof Emerges Of Covid Virus Origin In China & Fauci's Wuhan Lab Link

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appeared to share similar concerns upon the report’s publication, offering up the global organization’s resources to pursue a more robust investigation.

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation,” he said in a speech to member states. “Let me say clearly that, as far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table.”

A follow-up report released last month by a group of experts convened by WHO said more work was still needed to understand whether the pandemic could have been sparked by a laboratory accident.

Irrefutable proof is harder to come by in biology than in a field like math or physics, Andersen cautioned. Yet he and his fellow co-authors who previously considered the lab leak hypothesis said they feel the evidence currently available points solidly in one direction.

Worobey agreed. The evidence he and his colleagues published Tuesday, he said, "has moved me to the point where now I also think it’s just not plausible that this virus was introduced in any other way than through the wildlife trade at the Huanan market."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

FAQs

What is the origin of COVID-19? ›

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. It was first isolated from three people with pneumonia connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases in Wuhan. All structural features of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus particle occur in related coronaviruses in nature.

Where was the first case of coronavirus disease outside of China? ›

Officials confirm a case of COVID-19 in Thailand, the first recorded case outside of China.

Is COVID-19 still a pandemic? ›

With over 1 million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries. "The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond," a European Commission spokesperson said.

When was COVID-19 first confirmed in China? ›

The first known case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

When was the first case of coronavirus discovered? ›

The first case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019 and was subsequently declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). This global pandemic is now expected to impact on the economic outlook for some time to come.

When was COVID-19 declared a global pandemic? ›

On 11 March 2020 WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic due to the rapid spread and severity of cases around the world.

Who issued the official name of COVID-19? ›

The official names COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were issued by the WHO on 11 February 2020.

Is COVID-19 still a global threat? ›

With over 1 million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries. "The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond," a European Commission spokesperson said.

Has Canada dropped all COVID-19 restrictions? ›

Canada announced on Monday that it would remove all remaining coronavirus entry restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements, effective Oct. 1, ending some of the worlds longest and most stringent rules.

Is Canada dropping the vaccine mandate? ›

Beginning on October 1, travelers arriving in Canada are: No longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter Canada or meet COVID-19 testing, quarantine, or isolation requirements, No longer required to submit public health information through the ArriveCAN app, and.

When was the official name of SARS-CoV-2 announced? ›

On 11 February 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses adopted the official name "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" (SARS-CoV-2).

When was the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site launched? ›

The dedicated Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site was launched in May 2020 specifically for medicines and medical devices used in COVID-19, as well as COVID-19 vaccines when authorised.

Are COVID-19 tests 100% reliable? ›

No test is 100% reliable, even those who meet regulatory standards for performance and safety. The results are also only relevant to that sample at that point in time.

Is COVID-19 caused by a virus or a bacteria? ›

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria.

How is the COVID-19 disease transmitted? ›

COVID-19 transmits when people breathe in air contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles containing the virus. The risk of breathing these in is highest when people are in close proximity, but they can be inhaled over longer distances, particularly indoors. Transmission can also occur if splashed or sprayed with contaminated fluids in the eyes, nose or mouth, and, rarely, via contaminated surfaces.

How does COVID-19 usually spread? ›

When someone with a respiratory viral infection such as COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release small particles that contain the virus which causes the infection. These particles can be breathed in or can come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Which company designed the NHS COVID-19 app to protect the privacy and identity of the users? ›

This system is designed by Apple and Google to protect the privacy and identity of app users, making their use of the app anonymous.

What is the new COVID-19 vaccine booster called? ›

The bivalent vaccines, which we will also refer to as “updated boosters,” contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

How do we achieve herd immunity against COVID-19? ›

To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated, lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population.

Will Canada remove travel restrictions? ›

(CNN) — From October 1, Canada is removing all remaining Covid-19 entry restrictions including testing, quarantine and isolation requirements, officials announced Monday.

Is Canada open to unvaccinated? ›

Canada lifting COVID-19 restrictions, easing cross-border travel for unvaccinated athletes. The Canadian government is dropping its COVID-19 border measures for all travelers entering the country, regardless of citizenship, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Monday.

Are masks still required on planes in Canada? ›

TORONTO — The Canadian government announced Monday it will no longer require people to wear masks on planes to guard against COVID-19. "We are able to do this because tens of millions of Canadians rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said.

Can I go abroad if I don't have the COVID-19 vaccine? ›

If you have not been fully vaccinated, you should continue to follow the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to, such as proof of a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. You should carefully research the requirements of your destination country before travelling.

Is it mandatory to get a COVID-19 vaccination in a care home? ›

From 11 November 2021 care homes must only allow individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (or exempt) entry inside of a care home. This requirement will apply to those visiting a care home in a professional capacity unless exempt.

Are there any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines? ›

Like all medicines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them. Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as: a sore arm from the injection.

Who issued the official name of COVID-19? ›

The official names COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were issued by the WHO on 11 February 2020.

When was COVID-19 first reported? ›

On this website you can find information and guidance from WHO regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019.

Where was COVID-19 first identified? ›

The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

What is the Yellow Card scheme for the COVID-19 vaccine? ›

The Yellow Card scheme is a mechanism by which anybody can voluntarily report any suspected adverse reactions or side effects to the vaccine. It is very important to note that a Yellow Card report does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused that reaction or event.

Why do you need to submit a yellow card report for COVID-19 vaccine adverse effects? ›

• Reporters are asked to submit Yellow Card reports even if they only have a suspicion that the medicine or vaccine may have caused the adverse reaction. The existence of an adverse reaction report in the profile does not necessarily mean that the vaccine has caused the suspected reaction.

What are 'nudgeboxes' and what are they used for? ›

5,000 DNA 'Nudgebox' machines, supplied by DnaNudge, will be rolled out across NHS hospitals in the UK to analyse DNA in nose swabs, providing a positive or negative result for COVID-19 in 90 minutes, at the point of care. The machines will process up to 15 tests on the spot each day without the need for a laboratory.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet? ›

COVID-19 in the UK is spread between humans. There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) following close contact with infected humans.

Is COVID-19 caused by a virus or a bacteria? ›

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria.

Who issued the official name of COVID-19? ›

The official names COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were issued by the WHO on 11 February 2020.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet? ›

COVID-19 in the UK is spread between humans. There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) following close contact with infected humans.

When was COVID-19 declared a global pandemic? ›

On 11 March 2020 WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic due to the rapid spread and severity of cases around the world.

How is the COVID-19 disease transmitted? ›

COVID-19 transmits when people breathe in air contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles containing the virus. The risk of breathing these in is highest when people are in close proximity, but they can be inhaled over longer distances, particularly indoors. Transmission can also occur if splashed or sprayed with contaminated fluids in the eyes, nose or mouth, and, rarely, via contaminated surfaces.

When was the official name of SARS-CoV-2 announced? ›

On 11 February 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses adopted the official name "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" (SARS-CoV-2).

Which company designed the NHS COVID-19 app to protect the privacy and identity of the users? ›

This system is designed by Apple and Google to protect the privacy and identity of app users, making their use of the app anonymous.

What is the new COVID-19 vaccine booster called? ›

The bivalent vaccines, which we will also refer to as “updated boosters,” contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

How long does the virus that causes COVID-19 last on surfaces? ›

Recent research evaluated the survival of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces and reported that the virus can remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, up to four hours on copper, and up to 24 hours on cardboard.

Is COVID-19 still a global threat? ›

With over 1 million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries. "The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond," a European Commission spokesperson said.

When was the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site launched? ›

The dedicated Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site was launched in May 2020 specifically for medicines and medical devices used in COVID-19, as well as COVID-19 vaccines when authorised.

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