About Mysteries Linger Covid’s Origins, WHO Report Says

In its first report, a team of international scientists assembled by the World Health Organization to advise the origins of the origins of the coronavirus on Thursday that bats were taken from an ancestor of the coronavirus that may then spilled over into a mammal soldier in a wildlife market. General Chat Chat Lounge But the team said more Chinese data was needed to study how the virus spread to people, including the possibility that a lab played a role.

The team, led by the WHO in October as the organization tried to reset its approach to the pandemic’s origins, said that Chinese scientists had shared information with them, including unpublished studies, on two occasions. But gaps in Chinese reports made it difficult to determine when and where the outbreak emerged, the report said.

Independent experts said it was unclear how the team, including scientists from the United States, China and two dozen other countries, could help WHO break through the political barriers in China that have stalled the most information of the publication that would place the virus within its emergence. the treated borders.

“The lack of political cooperation from China continues to stifle any meaningful progress,” said Lawrence Gostin, who directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. He said the report offered a road map for investigating future pandemics in less secretive countries.

The WHO asked for advice on not only the coronavirus’s origins, but also examining the emergence of future pathogens. The team, known as the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, has no authority to undertake inquiries in China or elsewhere.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said the report was “just the beginning of their work.”

The group was expected to open more a lab than a previous team that sent the WHO to China in early 2021. That earlier team’s joint report with China said that a lab leak, while possible, was “extremely unlikely.” The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called that assessment premature.

The latest report says no new data points to a lab. But a group of leaders said they wanted to evaluate any evidence that emerged in the future.

“We haven’t received any reports that really suggest that there is a lab that we feel is strong to follow up on,” said Marietjie Venter, the team’s chairwoman and a professor of medical virology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Efforts to study a lab leak met resistance from team members from China, Russia and Brazil, who did not see the need for such investigations, the report said.

The report mentions a number of studies in the potential role of animals in the coronavirus that have been published since the previous WHO team’s work. For example, a survey of a live animal market in Wuhan, China, indicated that several species were known to be susceptible to the coronavirus in the fall of 2019.

Once people are linked to the market that is sick, the police shut down and disinfected the facility, making it more difficult for scientists to identify potential intermediate animal hosts for the virus.

The latest report said it was focusing on published, peer-reviewed studies, though it acknowledged a number of unpublished studies posted online as “pre-prints.” Among them were two papers released this year, in which a team of scientists argued that the pandemic arose when a bat infected a wild animal, such as a raccoon dog, which then sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale. Market in Wuhan.

Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who helped carry out those studies, said it was unfortunate that the WHO team did not look closely at the unpublished research.

“I think if you read our pre-prints and understand the evidence,” he said, “there is actually very strong evidence that the pandemic has emerged through the wildlife at the Huanan market.”

Dr. Worobey and other researchers said a significant opportunity was lost in January 2020 to focus on a search for the coronavirus on wildlife farms that supplied markets like Huanan. Instead, millions of animals were reportedly culled.

Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity researcher at King’s College London, praised the latest report noting for lack of published findings from China’s own origin studies. But she said its proposals for future pandemic origin studies did not adequately account for investigations into “accidental or deliberate events,” which she said would require expertise outside of public health.

Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said the report made clear that mitigating future pandemic threats required both animal and laboratory origins.

“Both of these things are sufficiently serious possibilities that they need to be thought about together,” he said.

The report recommended studies of blood samples from workers at wildlife farms and live animal markets and genomic data from early viral samples. But the previous WHO team has offered some similar studies, to no avail.

The latest report said that Dr. Tedros wrote twice in February requesting information from Chinese officials on the status of those studies as well as information on a potential lab. But there was no indication that the WHO would be able to persuade China to share any such work.

Although the difficulties, however, some information from China has trickled out.

Last week, Chinese researchers published a small study on raccoon dogs and bats in the Wuhan region in January 2020. In 15 raccoon dogs, researchers found a new breed of coronavirus related to one that infects dogs. In 334 bats, the researchers found coronaviruses that appear to be a mixture of viruses, some related to one that is Covid, and others related to one that was SARS in 2003.

“These sample sizes are not large enough,” said Maciej Boni, a virologist at Penn State University. “We need sampling done on the scale of tens of thousands of bats to get a complete picture.”

Leave a Comment