Experts still say they don’t know where the new coronavirus appeared from. Initially, it was said that the virus originated in Chinese bats before it ‘jumped’ to humans through an intermediary animal host. However, where and how that action happened is still very much arguable.
Initially, officials in Wuhan, China, reported that the first cases of the novel coronavirus appeared at the local Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. However, after a thorough investigation, the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that the market was ruled out as the source point of the outbreak.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese CDC, told Chinese state media: “It now turns out that the market is one of the victims.”
Numerous samples collected from animals at the market were found to be negative for the coronavirus, which means that they couldn’t have contaminated people.
The Wet Market is Not the Origin of the Virus
Wuhan official initially informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about the unknown illness that would later be named COVID-19 on December 31st. Most of the first 41 cases were allegedly linked to the wet market, which closed down on January 1st.
Considering that the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 seemed to appear at a similar venue first, the wet market was deemed the main source. However, none of the animals at the market tested positive for coronavirus, Colin Carlson, a zoologist at Georgetown University told Live Science.
If the animals were never infected, they couldn’t have been the interim host that made the spillover possible. A massive body of research supports the Chinese CDC’s findings that the outbreak’s source was not related to the wet market.
The illness appears to have been circulating in Wuhan before the first 41 cases were reported, with research published in January showing that the first person to be infected was probably exposed to it on December 1st. The researchers have also found that 13 of the 41 cases were not linked to the wet market whatsoever.
The Market Was Simply an Early-Spreader Event Site
Carson explained to Live Science that the market may simply have been the location of an early event, similar to an instance in which one person infects a relatively large number of others.
Other such events took place in Daegu, South Korea, where one churchgoer contaminated 43 people. These examples do not necessarily involve a person who is more prone to contact the virus than others, but the infected person has access to a larger number of people in locations that may facilitate infection such as a market.
Did the Coronavirus Leak From a Lab?
Other questions about the disease’s origin have birthed a number of possible theories, with a prominent one suggesting that the virus may have leaked from a laboratory, possibly the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), in which scientists were studying coronaviruses.
However, both Chinese and U.S. researchers claimed the virus did not escape the lab, as the facility follows strict safety measures.
The director of the WIV, Wang Yanyi, told China Central Television last weekend that the pathogen is different from the viruses analyzed at the institute.
Also, WIV virologist Shi Zhengli, who collects, samples, and researches coronaviruses in bats, told Scientific American that she cross-referenced the new virus’ genome with the genetic information of bat coronaviruses and found no match.