Evidence coronavirus originated in Huanan market is inconclusive
Tuesday, 09 February 2021
Members of an international World Health Organization-led team that travelled to Wuhan to investigate the origins and transmission of the first new coronavirus (Covid-19) have been unable to find conclusive evidence that it originated at the Huanan Fishmarket in Wuhan. Evidence found initial samples of the virus preceding the cases connected to the Huanan market outbreak, said the international team dispatched by the World Health Organisation during Tuesday’s press conference to release its first findings. Representatives from the team explained that this diversity of data sequences that was already present in the region provides evidence of un-sampled links of transmissions in other places.
The experts also highlighted that there is inconclusive evidence about which animal served as the intermediary host that transmitted Sars-Cov-2 directly to humans. “Evidence from surveys and targeted studies so far showed that coronaviruses most highly related to Sars-cov-2 are found in bats and pangolins, suggesting these animals may be the reservoir,” said Dr. Liang Wannian, the Head of the Expert Panel of COVID-19 Response Team from China National Health Commission (NHC) during the conference. Dr Wannian highlighted that the high susceptibility of minks and cats to SARS-CoV-2 suggests there may be additional species of animals – for example, dogs or felines – that act as potential reservoirs. He added that neither of the viruses identified so far from these species are sufficiently similar to SARS-CoV-2 to serve as the direct progenerator of the virus. Future research will be needed to understand what animals may have acted as transmitters to humans, said Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s food safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation team.
“Wuhan is not a city close to these bat environments, so a direct jump from bats to the city of Wuhan is not very likely,” he added. “We tried to find what other species were moving in and out of the city that could have contributed to the virus transmission, particularly to the market.“ During the experts’ four-week stay in Wuhan from January to February 2021, the team focused on understanding what happened at the beginning of the outbreak of this virus in December 2019, and looked into a possible previous history, to discover whether the first date of transmission happened earlier. In parallel, the team, composed of 17 international and 17 Chinese and experts, tried to understand how the spread of this virus within the Hubei region happened and how the virus emerged and was introduced in human populations. The aim of this research was also to help improve global preparedness against SARS-CoV-2 and to prevent further emergence of zoonotic diseases and their spreading and causing further pandemics.