Early virus cases were associated with a market in Wuhan, but could have originated elsewhere. (AFP)
PARIS, FRANCE –
While many scientists are looking for vaccines to tame the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, other researchers are investigating the past and trying to solve one of the virus’s biggest mysteries: exactly where it came from.
The World Health Organization has assembled an international team of 10 scientists to trace the origins of the virus.
You need to study both the suspicious animals and how the first patients were infected.
« We want to know the origin and will do everything we can to know the origin, » WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday.
The first cases were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan a year ago before countries around the world saw growing infections.
The WHO said the first cases in Wuhan are believed to be from early December.
« Where an epidemic is first discovered doesn’t necessarily reflect where it started, » she added in a November report.
Over the past few months, researchers in various countries have suggested that cases may have gone unnoticed long before December 2019 based on analysis of wastewater or blood samples.
However, there is a lack of « clear evidence » to support these claims, said Etienne Simon-Loriere of the virology department at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
This may help « better understand the dynamics of transmission, particularly how the virus has evolved over time and how clusters are related in time and place, » the WHO said.
The pangolin – a mammal exposed to rampant regional wildlife smuggling – was identified as a likely carrier at an early stage based on genetic analyzes. However, the case has not yet been resolved.
WHO investigators need to clarify this point by investigating Wuhan’s wet market, which sells live and wild animals and which has been linked to many early cases.
The team will be armed with clues that we didn’t have at the start of the pandemic.
Simon-Loriere said they could look for an animal with a viral receptor, a protein called ACE2, similar to that found in humans.
It has been found that some animals such as minks and ferrets have a very similar receptor to humans, while others are very different.
Another original theory that swirled in conspiracy rumors for months was that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the outbreak.
Against the background of diplomatic tensions, U. . S.. . President Donald Trump pointed out the idea, claiming the virus may have leaked from the biosafety laboratory.
While Simon-Loriere said it was not yet possible to completely rule out the idea that the virus accidentally escaped, he stressed that there was « no evidence that it was man-made ». .
« All elements of its genome have already been observed in nature, mainly in bat coronaviruses, » he said.
WHO says understanding how an epidemic began is « essential to prevent further introductions into the human population ». .
But it has warned that the process of tracking how an animal disease leaped is « a mystery that may take years to solve ». .
« The introduction of a new virus into the human population is one of the greatest puzzles an epidemiologist can solve, » it said.
The aim is to « understand the mechanism and take measures to prevent the emergence of a new SARS-CoV-3, 4, etc.. To avoid. « . « said Simon-Loriere.
For example, during the 2002 SARS epidemic, a ban on the consumption of civet cats – identified as the intermediate host of this coronavirus – is seen as helping to prevent the virus from being reintroduced into humans.
The UN Department of Health sent an advance team to Beijing in July to lay the foundation for the probe.
However, it has remained unclear when the larger team can travel to China to begin work.
At the end of November, the WHO hoped to have a larger team of scientists on site « as soon as possible ». .
The U. S.. . has accused Beijing of not being transparent while WHO leaned over to China and sought to investigate how the outbreak began.
Others expressed concern that the agency may have allowed China to dictate the terms of an international investigation into the origins of the virus.
Full coverage at CTVNews. ca / coronavirus
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World Health Organization, Coronavirus, Malaria, Tedros Adhanom
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