A Parisian scientist came across Covid genetic information extracted from swabs collected at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, a few weeks after the virus's initial outbreak. Although the data disappeared from the public eye, this unintended finding provided the first confirmation that animals vulnerable to Covid were indeed present at the Wuhan market.
Scientist had shared her findings last week
Last week, Florence Débarre, the scientist who made the discovery, shared her findings to shed light on the origins of the pandemic. However, according to a report, she has received threats to her safety since the data was published.
The Guardian quoted Florence Débarre, a senior researcher at France's National Centre for Scientific Research, as saying: "Last night, I was crying over the horrible things I’m reading about myself on social media."
“It’s horrible to have people discuss the fact you may be lying, when you’re not lying. When you have a profession in which being truthful is essential," she went on to add.
Raccoon dogs in Wuhan at the centre of discovery
According to her statement, while searching on Gisaid, a virology database, Florence Débarre stumbled upon the original data, which contained numerous raw genetic sequences obtained from swabs collected by Chinese scientists in early 2020.
“It was the Latin name for raccoon dog, multiple times. It was one of the greatest emotions of my life," Débarre said as discovery revealed that raccoon dogs are highly susceptible to coronavirus infection. Florence Débarre, however, noted that there is still no definitive evidence that the raccoon dogs in Wuhan were carrying the virus. Nevertheless, she stated: “But now it cannot be denied that they were there."
Not collaborating with Chinese scientist anymore: Débarre
Florence Débarre and her team requested permission from the Chinese scientists who had posted the data online to analyze it, and their request was granted. However, she alleged that the data was subsequently removed. “We were shocked. But not surprised," the scientist said, adding that, “It’s a complicated story. The short answer is that we’re not collaborating right now. But that collaboration was offered [by her team].”
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