Advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO) have called on China to release all information related to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, after several new findings were revealed based on pathogen tracing.
The new analysis of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, but also the new genome data, which were obtained from the animal market in Wuhan, China in 2020, were briefly published in the GISAID database by Chinese scientists earlier in this year, allowing researchers from other countries to analyze them, said the WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Pathogens, known by its acronym SAGO.
Analysis of these data suggested that the raccoons that were in the Wuhan market may have been infected with the coronavirus, providing new clues about the chain of transmission of the virus that eventually reached humans.
But access to this information was limited, “which is likely to make new data updates” by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
WHO officials have discussed the issue with their Chinese counterparts, who explained that the new data was intended to update a study published in 2022. The Chinese center has said it plans to republish the study in the scientific journal Nature.
WHO officials said that such information represents a new approach to investigating the origin of the coronavirus and requested that this information be shared with them immediately.
“These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic started, but every data is important to get closer to the truth,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“This data could have been shared with us three years ago,” he said on March 17.
“We continue to call on China to be transparent in sharing data and conduct the necessary investigations and then share their results.”
SAGO has been delegated by the WHO to continue investigating the origins of the pandemic that has killed almost 7 million people worldwide.
The animal and seafood market in Wuhan was closed by Chinese authorities after the first cases of the coronavirus appeared in late 2019. Since then, this market has been the focus of studies on whether the virus had infected several species before it was transmitted to people.
The WHO and other scientists have said they still cannot rule out the possibility that the virus emerged from a high-security laboratory in Wuhan that studies dangerous pathogens. China denies this happened.
In 2022, a study was published, after analyzing 923 samples collected from sewage systems and market stalls, they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, in the 457 animals tested, none had tested positive. In this study, it was stated that raccoons were not among the animals tested.
New analyzes suggest that “raccoons and other animals may have been in this market before it was cleared by authorities as part of efforts to increase public health safety,” SAGO said in a statement./ REL