Where did COVID-19 originate?
All the published genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 isolated from human cases are very similar, suggesting that the start of the outbreak resulted from a single point introduction in the human population around the time that the virus was first reported in humans in Wuhan, China. The analyses of the published genetic sequences further suggest that the spillover from an animal source
to humans happened during the last quarter of 2019.Mar 26, 2020
NEWS 11 NOVEMBER 2020
Where did COVID come from? WHO investigation begins but faces challenges
Identifying the source will be tricky, and investigators will need to grapple with the sensitive political situation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its plan to investigate the origins of the COVID pandemic. The search will start in Wuhan — the Chinese city where the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first identified — and expand across China and beyond. Tracing the virus’s path is important for preventing future viral spillovers, but scientists say the WHO team faces a daunting task.
Most researchers think the virus originated in bats, but how it jumped to people is unknown. Other coronaviruses have passed from an intermediate animal host; for example, the virus that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002–04 probably came to people from raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) or civets.
“Finding an animal with a SARS-CoV-2 infection is like looking for a needle in the world’s largest haystack. They may never find a ‘smoking bat’” or other animal, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City. “It will be key for the investigators to establish a collaborative relationship with scientists and government officials in China.”