No bats, no leak in a laboratory. New findings suggest that raccoon dogs, a popular breed in China, could be the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of French scientists published an analysis that reveals that there was DNA from this animal mixed with the coronavirus virus in genetic material that was collected in January 2020, in a Chinese market in Wuhan. It was in this place where the first cases of patients in the world were identified.
Raccoon dogs are nocturnal carnivores, from the fox family. They are bred by the millions on Chinese farms, which then do business selling their skins. The collected evidence also contained DNA from civets and other mammalspublished the magazine Science.
Several of the researchers presented the discovery last Tuesday before a group of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO). This finding weakens the idea that an accident at a virology laboratory in Wuhan was the cause of the pandemic. «The data points even more to a market originKristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research who attended the meeting at WHO, told Science.
Samples with raccoon dog DNA and the COVID-19 virus were specifically collected at Huanan Seafood Market. This type of business is known for selling different types of food and animals illegally, without safety and hygiene controls.
China censored finding on raccoon dogs and COVID-19 virus
Chinese censorship delayed the discovery that raccoon dogs are linked to the origin of COVID-19. The international scientific community did not know about these samples until the beginning of March 2023.when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China uploaded the information to GISAID, a large global data bank on influenza viruses and the coronavirus that has been in operation since 2008.
The information, however, was immediately withdrawn without any explanation. Luckily, biologist Florence Débarre, from the French National Center for Scientific Research, had already downloaded them onto her computer, she revealed. The Atlantic. He found them by accident, while doing other research.
It took Débarre five days to analyze all the material and understand its relevance. She and her team continue to work on analyzing all the data and hope to publish a final report soon. For this, they have requested the collaboration of her colleagues in China.
“We continue to call on China to be transparent when sharing data, to carry out the necessary investigations and share the results,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, told a news conference today. “Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and a scientific imperative”Tedros remarked.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO lead epidemiologist, explained that the new data shows that some animals that were in the market —among them, the raccoon dogs— were more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. The hypothesis holds that it was through these types of animals that the virus “jumped” to humans.
Just three years ago confinement began in much of the world. Since then, according to the WHO, the pandemic of COVID has killed almost seven million people across the planet.