Covid origins: New genetic material from China points to raccoon dogs and other wildlife
Many of those bent on human involvement in the origins of the pandemic are concerned about “gain-of-function” studies of bat samples conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other laboratories around the world.
Few would argue that there is a need to not only better manage the risks associated with the wet market and wildlife trade, but also to strengthen laboratory biosecurity around the world.
For example, a Global BioLabs report released this week by King’s College London found that the number of biosafety level 4 sites in operation has jumped from 59 in 23 countries to 69 in 27 countries in 2021, although sufficient oversight has not taken place. It warns that it is not , said the expert.
However, although the Labourique theory cannot be ruled out, many virologists argue that there is still plenty of evidence for a natural spillover of Sars-Cov-2 from bats to animals to humans. increase. Researchers involved in the latest analysis said their results were consistent with this theory.
“[This] It shows that susceptible animals were in the South China market co-located with many viruses,” Professor Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Canadian Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Agency, who worked on the new analysis, told The Telegraph. rice field.
“While it does not identify an intermediate species, it strongly supports the zoonotic origin of the pandemic in the South China market. This is important information in understanding how this pandemic began. is,” she said.
“It all points to the market.”
Professor Rasmussen and Dr Débarre said raccoon dogs weren’t the only animals involved in the tranche of data, and the team will release a full report with further data and analysis in the coming days, possibly Friday, March 17. He said he wanted to make it public. .
“There is genetic evidence for multiple susceptible species,” Professor Rasmussen said. “I had no intention of making this public before completing my analysis… [and] I want to make sure I’m confident in my analysis before I release it [it]But information is important. ”
However, many have expressed concern that new evidence was leaked before reports and preprints were available for scrutiny.
Professor François Ballou, Director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, said: “At this stage, supporting papers, preprints, data and even a clear description of what the data are are currently available. Not possible. “Therefore, at this stage, we can only speculate as to the significance of these results.”
The new sequence was discovered and downloaded last week by Dr. Débarre while trawling GISAID for new data. She warned experts around the world last week who began trolling arrays for clues about the origins of the coronavirus. It was a “big moment” when they discovered the raccoon dog’s genetic footprint.
The researchers told the WHO about the data on Sunday and presented their findings on Tuesday at a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), which is investigating how Sars-Cov-2 originated. Did.
Chinese researchers also shared the latest report. This team preprint was also reviewed in the Nature journal. This may be why the now-deleted gene sample was shared for the first time on his GISAID.
The way this has played out shows how much evidence China has withheld. China has consistently pushed the theory that the pandemic did not start in its own country.
“The big problem now is that this data exists and is not readily available to the international community,” said Professor Van Kerkhove.
The international community has long warned that poor wet market hygiene poses a huge risk, so it argues that China may have more to lose by acknowledging natural spillovers than by laboratory leaks. Some people do.
Scientists believe that the virus cannot survive on its own in the environment, so if significant levels of animal genetic material were found in the market, concentrations higher than in the human genome in some areas, suggesting that raccoon dogs were infected. He said it may indicate