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09 Feb 2021 | 11:55

WHO claims animals 'most likely' origin of SARS-CoV-2

(Sharecast News) - World Health Organization scientists who have been studying the origin of the Covid-19 virus in China over the past four weeks concluded that the most likely origin of the illness was in animals.

According to CNBC, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO's food safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation team, said at a press briefing that the "most likely" pathway for Covid-19 into humans was through an intermediary species.

So-called animal 'hosts' including bats and pangolins were both potential candidates for transmission, but the research showed that the virus found in those species was not "sufficiently similar" to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Liang Wannian, head of the expert Covid-19 panel at China's National Health Commission, said ongoing research from the WHO into the origins of the virus must focus on how the virus circulates in animals before infecting humans.

The investigations, which are still in progress, have led the scientists to visit hospitals, laboratories and markets, including the Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control laboratory.

Scientists initially suspected the virus came from wild animals sold at the seafood market but later investigations found that while the market helped the virus spread, it was not where the outbreak first emerged.

The initial findings of the investigation did not find evidence of large Covid outbreaks in Wuhan or elsewhere before December 2019.

However, researchers did find evidence of wider Covid circulation outside the Huanan Seafood Market that same month, Ben Embarek said.

"In terms of understanding what happened in the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don't think so," Ben Embarek said.

"Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely."
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