The international group of scientists has discovered traces of the SARS-CoV-2 strain in bats dwelling outside China. Thus, according to director of the program in emerging infectious diseases of the National University of Singapore Linfa Wang, it is possible to say that the virus was imported to China’s Wuhan from somewhere else. “It’s almost impossible to imagine this virus came from Wuhan,” he stated earlier.
According to research published on Tuesday as co-authored by the Singaporean scientist, a 96.2%-similar strain was also discovered in bats in China’s Yunnan and a strain with a 91.2% overlap was found in bats in Thailand.
The researchers used serological tests in order to detect the presence of antibodies similar to SARS-CoV-2 in bats and pangolins.
This method is used to establish the presence of the virus in the past yet does not detect it in the present.
As a result, four out of 98 species displayed a high level of antibodies, the study points out. At the same time the experts could not fully study the pangolins due to their protected status in Thailand.
The scientists also noted that horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros) inhabit not only Asia but also Australia and Europe.
Coronavirus lab leak unlikely, animal transmission key theory — WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) mission believes that the theory that COVID-19 has laboratory origins is “extremely unlikely.”
The expert group thinks that the coronavirus was transmitted to humans from an intermediary animal host, head of the WHO mission to Wuhan Peter Ben Embarek told a special briefing about the mission’s findings Tuesday.
According to him, the experts had four main theories which could potentially explain the way the virus jumped into humans: direct transmission from animal to human or “direct zoonotic spillover,” transmission via intermediary species, transmission from frozen food and a possible lab-related accident.
“Initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway,” Ben Embarek underlined, adding,
“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population.”
WHO mission to Wuhan
WHO experts arrived in Wuhan to study the origins of the novel coronavirus on January 14, 2021. After they arrived, they were placed on a two-week quarantine, during which they held video calls with their Chinese colleagues.
During their mission, the experts visited the Huanan Seafood Market where the early outbreak in December 2019 was recorded, several infectious disease hospitals and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Earlier, the WHO stated repeatedly that the search for a source of the novel coronavirus should start with the Chinese city of Wuhan. In the summer of 2020, two experts visited China in order to prepare the main mission.
As a result of the trip, WHO and Chinese experts drafted a document on the research and the program of activity of the international group led by the WHO.