Pair of COVID Studies Land on Same Culprit

One mapped locations of infections, the second analyzed genomic diversity of viruses
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2022 9:20 AM CDT
Pair of COVID Studies Point a Finger at Wuhan Market
Residents line up to be tested for COVID-19 in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on Aug. 3, 2021. Two new studies provide more evidence that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a Wuhan, China market where live animals were sold.   (Chinatopix via AP, File)

(Newser) – Two peer-reviewed studies published Tuesday in Science arrive at the same conclusion: Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was where the COVID pandemic originated. The Los Angeles Times explains that after the lab-leak theory was dismissed last year, scientists pointed out there wasn't a plethora of published data on the subject. This is an answer to those complaints: a pair of analytical approaches that led to the same conclusion. The first mapped the locations of the earliest known COVID cases, thereby digging into a persistent question—why of the hundreds of early cases, only about 50 were definitively traced to the market.

The mapping found that, in a city that covers 3,000 square miles, the bulk of these patients did live near the market. That bolsters the market-as-epicenter theory, with the marketgoers who got infected setting off a "chain of infections" in the area around them. The second study, per the BBC, looked at the timing, concluding there were two variants that humans contracted in November or early December 2019. In that study, researchers analyzed the genomic diversity of the virus early on and found the genomic diversity before February 2020 "likely comprised only two distinct viral lineages ... [that] were the result of at least two separate cross-species transmission events into humans."

The papers do not pinpoint the species of animal in which the coronavirus originated, though the first study states "all eight COVID-19 cases detected prior to 20 December were from the western side of the market, where mammal species were also sold." Researchers say workers or shoppers contracted the virus in two separate "spillover events." The Times notes that Kristian Andersen previously voiced his concerns directly to Dr. Anthony Fauci that COVID might have been engineered in a lab; he's now one of the study co-authors.

"All this evidence tells us the same thing: It points right to this particular market in the middle of Wuhan," Andersen, of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, says. "Any other version—a lab leak, for example—would have to explain all this other evidence, and in my view that’s just not plausible." Study author David Robertson adds that he hopes the studies "correct the false record that the virus came from a lab." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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