The World Health Organization (WHO) today made an umpteenth call for China to share all the scientific information useful to determine the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pressure comes after learning that the Asian country has genetic and molecular results that has been saved about the animal market that was the first place that was suspected.
The information, from the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) of China, was uploaded to an open access scientific platform, and discovered by European experts who analyzed it and communicated their results to the WHO. But later all those data were removed from the platform.
The director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, indicated in an official conference by the United Nations agency before the international press, that as soon as he learned of this, the organization asked the Chinese authorities to make the information available. However, this has not yet happened. Likewise, he added that these data do not allow drawing a definitive conclusion about how the pandemic began, but “each data is an important piece to get closer to the answer.
“They should be disclosed”
“The question of how the pandemic began remains unanswered and these data do not give a definitive answer, but they are important to get closer to the answer,” the WHO chief reiterated. March 11 marked three years since the WHO first described the global outbreak of Covid-19 as a pandemic. And Tedros has criticized China for not disclosing genetic information earlier. “These data could and should have been disclosed three years ago“, he claimed.
The data from the China Center for Disease Prevention and Control refer to samples collected from surfaces located in the Huanan marketin Wuhan, in 2020. They were taken after the first human cases of Covid-19 appeared at the end of 2019.
Tedros said that heThe genetic sequences were loaded into the database the world’s largest virus registry, GISAID, at the end of January. It was done by CDC scientists, but they were later withdrawn. A French biologist found the information by chance when he was going through the database and showed it to a group of scientists outside of China who were looking for the origins of the coronavirus.
Genetic sequencing data revealed that some of the samples, known to be positive for the coronavirus, also contained genetic material from Japanese raccoons, indicating that the animals were infected with the virus, according to the scientists. The first reports on the analyzes appeared in the journal The Atlantic.
“There is a good chance that the animals that deposited the DNA also deposited the virus,” said Stephen Goldstein, a virologist at the University of Utah who was involved in the data analysis. “If one were to do environmental sampling after a zoonotic spill event…this is exactly what you would expect to find.”
Was it humans or a Japanese raccoon?
Ray Yip, an epidemiologist and founding member of the US Centers for Disease Control office in China, said the new findings were not definitive, but they were significant. “The market environmental sampling data released by the China CDC is by far the strongest evidence to date in support of animal origin,” Yip told The Associated Press in an email. He has had no relation to the new analysis.
Scientists have been searching for the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic since the virus emerged, but the search has been hampered by several factors, including the huge increase in human infections in the first two years of the pandemic and a bitter political dispute. international.
It took experts more than 12 years to confirm the animal origin of SARS, a virus related to Covid. The researchers say their analysis is the first concrete indication that wildlife infected with the coronavirus may have been on the market. Some of the samples with Japanese raccoon DNA were collected from a stall that tested positive and was known to be involved in the wildlife trade.
However, it is also possible that humans were the first to bring the virus to market and infected the Japanese raccoons, or that infected people left traces of the virus near the animals.
Last year, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona (United States) confirmed that live animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market were the likely source of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Led by the university’s expert in virus evolution, Michael Worobey, international teams of researchers traced the start of the pandemic to the Wuhan market. Their findings were published in two articles in the journal Science.