COVID-19 origin study points to bats and animal hosts as pathway

Covid 'most likely' came from bats and China lab leak theory 'extremely unlikely' WHO report concludes

A more probable scenario, the report found, was that the virus had first jumped from bats to another animal, which in turn infected humans.

"The team has confirmed that there was widespread contamination with Sars-CoV-2 in the Huanan market in Wuhan, but could not determine the source of this contamination", said Dr Tedros.

A spillover from bats via another animal is the most likely scenario in the report, followed by direct spillover.

No matter what the report says, it is clear the Chinese government hijacked the WHO's probe, which was presumably run by a panel of puppet "investigators".

Without providing evidence, former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that his personal opinion was the virus was released from a lab, not necessarily intentionally.

Members of the World Health Organization team visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

"It supports our current picture of the start of the pandemic", said Joel Wertheim, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, who reviewed part of the report but didn't take part in the research.

The report noted that the Wuhan CDC laboratory moved in early December to a location near the Huanan market, and "such moves can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory". China's government is concerned the research could draw attention to how it dealt with the virus and possibly open it up to worldwide criticism or legal action.

Independent researchers have been saying this for months.

Already during the Wuhan press conference, the experts had said the lab-leak theory was considered the least likely.

The Telegraph reports that the WHO's assessment goes on to say it is "extremely unlikely" that the virus originated from an accident with an infected laboratory staff member.

The role of the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan is also unclear.

Vaccines have offered a glimmer of hope and allowed some countries to emerge from more than a year of punishing anti-virus measures.

The study is based on the visit of a team of worldwide experts to China in January.

Sampling at the market turned up the virus on surfaces but not in samples taken from animals or food sold at the market.

The Associated Press reported this story.

However, it said: "No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can now be drawn".

"In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data", Tedros said. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) participated as an observer.

The findings confirm what researchers said in mid-February at the conclusion of their four-week mission to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the first COVID-19 cases emerged at the end of 2019, and in subsequent interviews.

The team looked for evidence the virus was circulating in China before anyone noticed. The earliest known cases of the coronavirus were identified in Wuhan.

Wuhan has no recorded COVID-19 cases of community transmissions since May 2020, life for residents is gradually returning to normal.

After the outbreak, explanations floated by Chinese officials and state-media have ranged from a conspiracy theory that USA soldiers imported the virus in the 2019 World Military Games in Wuhan, to the frozen food theory after a series of outbreaks linked to workers who handled frozen goods. The study could help scientists prevent future outbreaks.

The report suggests further checks into farms as a possible source of the virus. The researchers recommended tracing the origin of SARS-CoV-2 worldwide in farmed and wild animals species likely to harbor coronaviruses, such as ferret-badgers, civets, mink and raccoon dogs, especially in areas where little research has been undertaken and where animal viruses are most likely to spill over to people.

Similar viruses have been found in Malayan pangolin, and mink have proven also highly susceptible, it said, adding it could not rule out that minks might be the primary source.



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