The most likely way the coronavirus got into humans is through two animal species. That would have happened from a bat to another animal and then to humans. This is the conclusion drawn by the WHO researchers who have researched the origin of the virus in China. The AP and AFP news agencies have viewed a draft report on their findings.
The big suspicion was that bats were the source of the virus, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. However, it was still unclear whether humans had gotten it directly from bats. This is still seen as a possibility by the researchers at the World Health Organization, but the scenario is even more likely that a second animal has acted as an ‘intermediary’. Pangolins, mink, and cats are listed as options.
The experts emphasize that further research is needed into both scenarios. According to them, that is not necessary for another theory, namely that the virus was accidentally transferred in a laboratory. They call that scenario “very unlikely”. The researchers also consider it unlikely that the virus can pass through food. The findings are largely as expected.
The researchers, including the Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, were in Wuhan for almost a month at the beginning of this year. They visited the Huanan fish market, where the first series of infections was detected. They also spoke with stakeholders and medical institutions.
According to AP news agency, the rough version of the report does not provide a definite answer about the role of the fish market. Cases of corona have also been detected in the market prior to the outbreak, but they may have had mild symptoms. More research needs to be done on this too, say the experts.
In the NPO Radio 1 program Speech makers Researcher Koopmans confirmed the WHO team’s ‘two animals’ conclusion. “It’s a bit premature, because the release of the report has yet to happen,” she said. “But if you put it all together, we think this is the most likely option.”
Koopmans also commented on reports that WHO researchers would be disappointed with the cooperation they received from the Chinese authorities in Wuhan. She does not fully recognize herself in those messages.
“It is simply a very complex research, involving people from thousands of disciplines,” says Koopmans. “Then you just can’t snap your fingers and say: give me all the data. It doesn’t work that way.”