Within the two years earlier than the pandemic started, markets within the Chinese language metropolis of Wuhan had been promoting practically three dozen animal species that may harbor pathogens that leap to people, researchers have discovered, shedding new gentle on the potential position of the wildlife commerce within the coronavirus’s origins.
The researchers discovered gross sales in Wuhan of mink, palm civets and raccoon canine, however they didn’t discover gross sales of pangolins or bats, which have been suspected as potential sources of the coronavirus.
In all, the researchers documented gross sales of greater than 47,000 animals throughout 38 species in Wuhan markets between Might 2017 and November 2019. Thirty-three of the species have beforehand been contaminated with ailments or disease-bearing parasites that may have an effect on people, the researchers stated.
China suspended the sale and consumption of untamed animals because the coronavirus started spreading quickly early final yr. The nation’s wildlife commerce performed a key position within the SARS outbreak within the early 2000s.
A workforce of consultants who led a World Well being Group mission to Wuhan this yr examined vendor information and different proof from town’s animal markets. However the workforce reached no agency conclusions in regards to the markets’ position within the outbreak, or in regards to the particular species by means of which the coronavirus may need unfold to people.
Greater than a yr into the pandemic, the query of the virus’s origins stays largely unresolved. The Biden administration final month introduced a brand new push to research whether or not it may have by chance leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.
President Biden’s motion got here as prime well being officers renewed their appeals this week for a extra rigorous inquiry. And it adopted mounting criticism of a report from a workforce of worldwide consultants convened by the World Well being Group that largely dismissed the likelihood that the virus had by chance escaped from a Chinese language laboratory known as the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Many scientists assist investigating all potentialities, together with the laboratory origin, although they suppose the virus was in all probability transmitted from animals to people exterior of a laboratory. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at College of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Illness Group, stated of the brand new examine, “I feel this places an enormous level within the column of pure origin by means of intermediate species.” She stated that whereas the paper “doesn’t show something” it “supplies clear proof that the wildlife markets actually haven’t been investigated sufficient.”
The examine of the animal markets, printed this week within the journal Scientific Stories, was written by authors affiliated with China West Regular College, Oxford College and the College of British Columbia.
Between 2017 and 2019, one of many researchers performed month-to-month surveys of all 17 outlets in Wuhan markets that offered stay wild animals for meals and pets. Seven of those outlets had been on the metropolis’s Huanan seafood market. A number of early Covid instances in Wuhan had been found in folks with connections to that market.
The researchers initially carried out the surveys to research a tick-borne virus. However their outcomes grew to become “serendipitously” related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers wrote.
Among the many different species on sale in Wuhan, in accordance with the researchers, had been badgers, hedgehogs, weasels, porcupines, marmots, crimson foxes, flying squirrels, crested myna birds, snakes, vipers, cobras and Siamese crocodiles. Nearly the entire animals had been “offered alive, caged, stacked and in poor situation,” the researchers wrote, and had been usually butchered on website.