COVID origins reflect initial spread of SARS virus 17 years ago, emerged from animal: Study

Researchers have discovered that the initial coronavirus cases traced to the wet markets of Wuhan mirror the SARS outbreak 17 years ago, as per a new study.

Scientists said in a paper that concludes that an animal contagion is the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s genesis.

The epidemiological history of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is comparable to previous animal market-associated outbreaks of coronaviruses and offers a simple route for human exposure, Edward Holmes, Andrew Rambaut and 19 other researchers said in a review of the scientific evidence pertaining to the pandemic’s origins.

The paper, yet to be submitted for peer review, was published in Bloomberg and gives a detailed explanation for SARS-CoV-2’s genetic signatures, early epidemiology, and research undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The new research adds to the already talked about probabilities of the spread. There have been speculations that either it might have leaked from the Wuhan lab or could be a case of zoonotic transfer from animals to humans.

Bloomberg, quoting authors, reported that the lab accident theory cannot be entirely dismissed, but it’s very unlikely compared with the numerous and repeated human-animal contacts that occur routinely in the wildlife trade.

Speculations about COVID-19 virus emergence have been around two competing ideas of a laboratory escape or a spillover from animals.

The authors of the paper, who also include Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty and Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar, said there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin, and the suspicion stems from the coincidence that the pandemic virus was first detected in a city that houses the institute’s maximum biosafety lab that studies coronaviruses and deadly diseases, such as Ebola.

A similar outbreak of SARS, 17 years ago, emerged from the Huanan wholesale seafood market in Wuhan that sold live, wild animals. However, researchers are yet to find any bat reservoir or intermediate animal host for SARS-CoV-2.

The World Health Organization had said the virus could have been circulating in other regions before it was first identified in early 2020, but there was no evidence of other large outbreaks.

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