New research points to Wuhan market as pandemic origin

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  • The genesis of the coronavirus pandemic has been pinpointed to a market in Wuhan, China, according to two new investigations. They determined that the coronavirus was most likely present in live animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019 and that the virus twice spread to humans working or buying at the market. An alternative notion that the coronavirus escaped from Wuhan was not supported by their research findings.
  • It’s a “extraordinarily clear picture” that the epidemic began in Huanan market, evolutionary scientist Michael Worobey, a co-author of both studies, tells the Arizona Daily Star.
  • Peer review is still pending for each of these studies since they have not been submitted to a scholarly publication.
  • In the ongoing dispute regarding the beginnings of a pandemic that has killed almost 6 million people and sickened 400 million, these two papers constitute an important volley. Debates have raged over whether the coronavirus epidemic was caused by a spillover from animals sold at the market, an accidental leak from the Wuhan virology laboratory, or some other method.

 

  • A few sceptics in the scientific community have claimed they are still doubtful about the market genesis explanation. According to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center virus researcher Jesse Bloom, there is still no proof that animals at the market have been infected with the coronavirus. Bloom revealed this in an interview.
  • Of the new research, Bloom remarked, “I believe what they’re suggesting may be accurate.” There isn’t enough confidence in the quality of the data to claim that any of these possibilities is accurate.

 

  • Wild animals that may have been infected with the coronavirus were sold in December 2019, according to a recent investigation by Worobey and his colleagues. However, by the time Chinese researchers came in early 2020, there was no wildlife remaining at the market.

 

  • Several of the academics who contributed to the current study have previously published smaller studies that reached a similar result but did so with far less information. A seller at the Huanan market was previously identified as the first known victim of the coronavirus.

 

  • New genetic traces of coronaviruses obtained at the market in January 2020 were studied by specialists at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to previous research, viruses found in early instances of COVID belonged to two primary evolutionary branches. Samples from both branches of the Huanan market were included in a study published online on Friday, according to the researchers.

 

  • It was only after the research was made public that Worobey and his colleagues realised that the data were compatible with their hypothesis for two origins at the market.

 

  • According to virus specialist Jeremy Kamil of Louisiana State University Health Sciences, “the beauty of it is how simple it all adds up today.”
  • When COVID first arrived in Wuhan, the wholesale seafood market in Huanan was one of the first places people looked for answers. Several market employees became ill with an unexplained pneumonia in the latter week of December. On December 30, public health authorities instructed hospitals to notify them of any new instances of pneumonia associated with the market.

 

  • By the end of December, a novel coronavirus had been identified as the cause of the unexplained pneumonia. SARS was caused by another coronavirus in 2002, which killed 774 people. When scientists looked into the virus’ origins, they found that it had transmitted from bats to wild mammals and ultimately onto people through marketplaces selling the animals.

 

  • Huanan market was shut down by Chinese authorities in fear of a repeat of SARS. The Wuhan police plan to close it on January 1, 2020. During the cleaning process, hazmat suits were worn by the workers who cleaned and disinfected the restrooms.
  • More than a dozen samples obtained from surfaces and sewers in the market yielded the virus, according to Chinese experts, but none of the samples taken from animals yielded the virus.

 

  • As the coronavirus expanded, the relationship between the market and the virus seemed to be weakening. Scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan were called into question over their work on coronaviruses.

 

  • 156 instances of COVID in Wuhan in December 2019 were mapped out by Worobey and his colleagues for the current study. The market has the largest concentration of instances.
  • Maps were then created for January and February of this year. Researchers in China utilised data from Weibo, a social media platform that provided a way for those suffering with COVID to seek assistance. Away from the market, in areas of downtown Wuhan with substantial concentrations of older inhabitants, the 737 instances gathered from Weibo were concentrated.

 

  • According to the findings of the investigations, the disease began at a market and expanded to nearby communities, before spreading to other parts of the city. Tests carried out by the experts indicated that such a pattern could not have been created solely by coincidence.

 

  • As Worobey noted, “the statistical evidence is quite strong that this is no coincidence.”
  • Other animals that may be hosts for coronaviruses were being sold in the market in late 2019, according to the study’s authors. Vendors gathered in the southwest quadrant of the Huanan market in January 2020 provided genetic samples that revealed the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

 

  • In the first few weeks of the pandemic, researchers compiled an evolutionary family tree of the coronaviruses they collected. A and B are the two main branches of the tree. The researchers determined that the changes in each branch came from independent animals, each adapting to humans on its own.

 

  • In late November or early December 2019, experts predict that Lineage B leaped to humans whereas Lineage A jumped shortly after that.
  • Lineage B has previously only been found in the Huanan market, according to previous investigations. There were just two occurrences of Lineage A among persons who lived close to a market, according to research by Worobey and his colleagues.

 

  • When the market was shut down, a glove was retrieved and tested by the Chinese CDC, which announced its findings on Friday. According to this result, both coronaviruses were transferred from animals sold on the market.

 

  • The concept that there were two different spillovers was questioned by Bloom. He remarked on the importance of the Lineage. There is a chance that a sample taken from the market was infected after the virus began spreading to people.
  • That just two mutations separated both lineages, according to him, suggests that as the virus spread from person to person, it may have evolved from one to the other.