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Genetic data links the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic to raccoon dogs in China

Genetic data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links the origin of SARS-CoV-2 to raccoon dogs sold at the Huanan Wholesale Market in Wuhan, the same place where the first cases of Covid-19 before the start of the pandemic.

The information was released this week by a group of independent scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Raccoon dogs are fox-like animals with very raccoon-like faces. Susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, they have been sold on the market. This blend of genetic material from the virus and from a susceptible animal – precisely at the epicenter of the disease outbreak – provides evidence that may help understand that the (when a virus or microbe has managed to adapt and migrate from one species to another).

For now, the newly discovered genetic data has yet to be made publicly available. OR The Atlantic he was the first to announce the discovery last Thursday (16). The WHO confirmed in a press conference on Friday (17) that it learned of the data for the first time last Sunday. On Tuesday, the agency’s Science Advisory Panel on the Origins of New Pathogens was called in to carefully evaluate the case.

At the meeting, international scientists managed to download the data before it was removed from the database and presented their preliminary analysis. Media reports point out that the data was removed soon after scientists contacted China’s CDC seeking more information.

Florence D├ębarre, an expert in evolutionary biology at CNRS, France’s national research agency, was the one who discovered the data in GISAID in early March, before it was removed.

The big question now is whether this data exists and is not available to the international community. This is absolutely critical in the first place, not to mention it should have been available years earlier.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical manager

It is worth mentioning that while investigating the origins of SARS-CoV-2, China floated the dubious hypothesis that the virus had emerged far from its borders, even suggesting that it was brought to Huanan market by imported frozen foods. Suggestions of a possible leak from the lab have been denied, as have the existence of any wild animals in the Huanan market that could have served as an intermediate host.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also expressed frustration, noting that the agency has again pressed China for more transparency.

This data could have – and should have – been shared three years ago (…) We continue to ask China to be transparent in sharing data and conduct the necessary investigations and share the findings. Understanding how the pandemic started remains a moral and scientific imperative.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general

Main image: Olexandr Reznikov/Shutterstock

With information from Ars Technique

Post genetic data linking the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic to raccoon dogs in China first appeared on Olhar Digital.

Source: Olhar Digital

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