Newly-revealed coronavirus information has reignited a debate over the virus’s origins



Knowledge collected in 2020—and saved from public view since then—doubtlessly provides weight to the animal concept. It highlights a possible suspect: the raccoon canine. However precisely how a lot weight it provides relies on who you ask. New analyses of the information have solely reignited the talk, and stirred up some severe drama.

The present ruckus begins with a examine shared by Chinese language scientists again in February 2022. In a preprint (a scientific paper that has not but been peer-reviewed or printed in a journal), George Gao of the Chinese language Heart for Illness Management and Prevention (CCDC) and his colleagues described how they collected and analyzed 1,380 samples from the Huanan Seafood Market.

These samples had been collected between January and March 2020, simply after the market was closed. On the time, the group wrote that they solely discovered coronavirus in samples alongside genetic materials from folks.

There have been plenty of animals on sale at this market, which bought extra than simply seafood. The Gao paper incorporates a lengthy record, together with chickens, geese, geese, pheasants, doves, deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, crocodiles, snakes, and salamanders. And that record will not be exhaustive—there are stories of different animals being traded there, together with raccoon canine. We’ll come again to them later.

However Gao and his colleagues reported that they didn’t discover the coronavirus in any of the 18 species of animal they checked out. They advised that it was people who almost certainly introduced the virus to the market, which ended up being the primary recognized epicenter of the outbreak.

Quick-forward to March 2023. On March 4, Florence Débarre, an evolutionary biologist at Sorbonne College in Paris, noticed some information that had been uploaded to GISAID, an internet site that enables researchers to share genetic information to assist them examine and monitor viruses that trigger infectious illnesses. The information appeared to have been uploaded in June 2022. It appeared to have been collected by Gao and his colleagues for his or her February 2022 examine, though it had not been included within the precise paper.