Wuhan lab leak theory undermined as new research points to wet market


New research points to a Wuhan market in China as the origin of the pandemic, further undermining claims that the coronavirus originated in a lab.

The idea that the virus originated in a market has long been the leading theory among the scientific community, but some have still insisted the virus was man-made and leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Two new research studies released on Saturday further backs up the market theory.

One of the studies used spatial analysis to show that the earliest known cases of COVID-19 were located near the market. It found that positive environmental samples were “strongly associated” with vendors selling live animals including raccoon dogs.

“Together, these analyses provide dispositive evidence for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 via the live wildlife trade and identify the Huanan market as the unambiguous epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study said.

The other study analyzed the pattern of genomic diversity of the virus early in the pandemic, finding that the disease was likely transmitted to people from an animal.

Michael Worobey, who is a co-author on both studies, tweeted: “We found that cases in December were both nearer to, and more centered on, the Huanan market than could be expected given either the population density distribution of Wuhan, or the spatial distribution of COVID cases later in the the epidemic. Its epicenter was at the market.”

The origin of the virus has become highly debated since the beginning of the pandemic. Many health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have long promoted the theory that the market as the origin—though he has said he would be open to an investigation into the origin—while others have pushed the lab leak theory as definitive while calling on greater scrutiny and investigations into the lab.

“There was a study recently that we can make available to you, where a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences [of the novel coronavirus] and the sequences in bats as they evolve. And the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human,” Fauci said in April 2020, just weeks after the pandemic began prompting widespread shutdowns across the United States.

A WHO report from last year found that the virus likely originated in the market, but officials at the time declined to completely rule out the possibility that the virus originated in a lab. The Chinese government has also refuted the lab leak theory, dismissing calls for an investigation into its origin.

Studies point to market as coronavirus origin
New studies point to a Wuhan market, rather than the Wuhan Institute of Virology, above, as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images



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