(This article is authored by Alar)
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread devastation, with millions of lives lost and economies shattered across the globe. In what made the news is an international team of virus experts has recently suggested that the deadly Covid-19 pandemic may have originated in raccoon dogs from the Wuhan market in China. This finding has triggered a fresh debate about the origins of the virus, which has wreaked havoc on the world over the past three years.
Existing inequalities, such as access to healthcare, education, and technology, have been emphasised and exacerbated by the pandemic. It has been the subject of a global political and scientific debate, with scientists and politicians contending that the Coronavirus jumped from bats to humans or escaped from a laboratory.
According to The New York Times, a new study led by researchers namely Kristian Andersen, Michael Worobey, and Edward Holmes, from the Universities of Arizona, Utah, and Sydney as well as the Scripps Research Institute is based on genetic data gathered from swabs taken in and around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market beginning in January 2020. The results indicated that a substantial amount of genetic material was compatible with the raccoon dog.
"We were able to figure out relatively quickly that at least in one of these samples, there was a lot of raccoon dog nucleic acid, along with virus nucleic acid," Stephen Goldstein, a virologist at the University of Utah who worked on the new analysis, was quoted as saying. "This is a really strong indication that animals at the market were infected. There's really no other explanation that makes any sense," Angela Rasmussen, a virologist who was part of the research told The Atlantic.
Either another animal or a human carrier could have transmitted the virus to the raccoon dog, they concluded. The scientists, however stated that their "analysis did establish that raccoon dogs deposited genetic signatures in the same place where genetic material from the virus was left," according to the NYT.
Goldstein emphasised that they did not possess an infected animal, and could not provide conclusive evidence that an infected animal had been housed in that stall. However, he noted that it is unclear when exactly the virus' genetic material was deposited at the market, despite the fact that it is stable enough to be used as a research tool.
But the team also noted that "jumbling together of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected. And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal had spread the virus to people. Another animal could have passed the virus to people, or someone infected with the virus could have spread the virus to a raccoon dog," they said. This pointed towards the likely scenario of the virus spreading to humans from an infected wild animal.