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New Studies Examine Origins of Coronavirus

New Studies Examine Origins of Coronavirus

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The theory of the Wuhan wet market has become more plausible.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in 2020, many people wanted to know where, exactly, the novel coronavirus had emerged from. The two predominant theories were that it had arisen as a result of bats sold in a wet market or that it had been released accidentally in some kind of lab leak. As the virus spread, though, society became more interested in solutions than origins, and the matter was tabled for a while.

As things have calmed down somewhat, however, researchers have restarted efforts to pinpoint the origin of the coronavirus, and according to one new study, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan is seeming like the more likely culprit. Utilizing mapping tools, combined with the first reports of COVID-19 in the Wuhan area, researchers were able to narrow down where the first cases emerged and spread.

“Of all the locations that the early cases could have lived, where did they live? And it turned out when we were able to look at this, there was this extraordinary pattern where the highest density of cases was both extremely near to and very centered on this market,” study co-author and University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey said at a press conference. “Crucially, this applies both to all cases in December and also to cases with no known link to the market … And this is an indication that the virus started spreading in people who worked at the market but then started to spread into the local community.”

“All this evidence tells us the same thing: It points right to this particular market in the middle of Wuhan,” said Kristian Andersen, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research and another co-author. “I was quite convinced of the lab leak myself until we dove into this very carefully and looked at it much closer.”

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