New studies pinpoint Wuhan market as original source of COVID pandemic

Three news studies published at the end of February reveal intriguing clues that point to the large “wet market” that sold live animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan as the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nature magazine reports.

SARS-CoV-2 was first detected more than two years ago in wet markets in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, before the virus spread across the world, infecting more than 300 million people, and killing more than 5 million.

But the world is still seeking answers about the initial source. While none of these studies have been peer-reviewed yet, as an article in Forbes notes, taken together, they suggest a possible resolution to one of the great question of this pandemic.

Two of the reports trace the outbreak back to the massive Wuhan market, while the third suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 spilled over to humans at least twice in November or December 2019 from animals that were possibly sold at the market.

The three studies

The first study, published on Research Square on Feb. 25, points to “convincing evidence of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the Huanan Seafood Market during the early stage of COVID-19 outbreak.”

“SARS-CoV-2-specific RT-qPCR, 73 environmental samples tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and three live viruses were successfully isolated. The viruses from the market shared nucleotide identity of 99.980% to 99.993% with the human isolate HCoV/Wuhan/IVDC-HB-01,” the study says.

The second study, published Feb. 26, points out that “geographical clustering of the earliest known COVID-19 cases and the proximity of positive environmental samples to live-animal vendors suggest that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the site of origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It says that “both the two early lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have a clear association with the Huanan market” and “provide dispositive evidence for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 via the live wildlife trade” identifying the Huanan market “as the unambiguous epicenter of the COVID-19.”

The third study, also published Feb. 26, focuses on “the pattern and origin of genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 early in the COVID-19 pandemic” and found at least two instances prior to February 2020 where the virus spilled over from another species to humans, concluding that “SARS-CoV-2 emergence likely resulted from multiple zoonotic events.”

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