Unearthed genetic sequences from China market may point to animal origin of COVID-19
A scientific sleuth in France has identified previously undisclosed genetic data from a food market in Wuhan, China, that she and colleagues say support the theory that coronavirus-infected animals there triggered the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of the researchers presented their findings on Tuesday to the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), an expert group convened last year by the World Health Organization. “The data does point even further to a market origin,” says Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research who attended the meeting and is one of the scientists analyzing the new data. If so, the findings weaken the view of a vocal minority that a virology lab in Wuhan was the likely origin of SARS-CoV-2, perhaps when the coronavirus infected a lab worker, who spread it further. Florence Débarre, a theoretician who specializes in evolutionary biology and works at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, unearthed the data, which consists of genetic sequences posted in GISAID, a virology database, by Chinese researchers. The Chinese team had collected environmental samples from the Huanan Seafood Market, which was connected to a cluster of early COVID-19 cases and despite its name also sold a variety of mammals for food. Since Débarre spotted the sequences, GISAID has removed them, noting that this was at the request of the submitter. Given that the mystery of SARS-CoV-2’s origin has be...
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