Wuhan Markets Bought Animals That May Have Contaminated People With Covid, Research Finds

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Within the two years earlier than the pandemic started, markets within the Chinese language metropolis of Wuhan have been promoting almost three dozen animal species that may harbor pathogens that leap to people, researchers have discovered, shedding new mild on the doable function of the wildlife commerce within the coronavirus’s origins.

The researchers discovered gross sales in Wuhan of mink, palm civets and raccoon canines, however they didn’t discover gross sales of pangolins or bats, which have been suspected as doable 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 illnesses or disease-bearing parasites that may have an effect on people, the researchers mentioned.

China suspended the sale and consumption of untamed animals because the coronavirus started spreading quickly early final 12 months. The nation’s wildlife commerce performed a key function within the SARS outbreak within the early 2000s.

A group of consultants who led a World Well being Group mission to Wuhan this 12 months examined vendor data and different proof from town’s animal markets. However the group reached no agency conclusions concerning the markets’ function within the outbreak, or concerning the particular species by which the coronavirus might need unfold to people.

Greater than a 12 months 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 might have by chance leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.

President Biden’s motion got here as high well being officers renewed their appeals this week for a extra rigorous inquiry. And it adopted mounting criticism of a report from a group of worldwide consultants convened by the World Well being Group that largely dismissed the chance that the virus had by chance escaped from a Chinese language laboratory referred to as the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Many scientists assist investigating all prospects, together with the laboratory origin, regardless that they assume the virus was most likely transmitted from animals to people exterior of a laboratory. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at College of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Illness Group, mentioned of the brand new examine, “I feel this places a giant level within the column of pure origin by intermediate species.” She mentioned that whereas the paper “doesn’t show something” it “gives 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 Studies, 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 carried out month-to-month surveys of all 17 retailers in Wuhan markets that offered dwell wild animals for meals and pets. Seven of those retailers have been on the metropolis’s Huanan seafood market. A number of early Covid circumstances in Wuhan have been found in individuals 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 response to the researchers, have been badgers, hedgehogs, weasels, porcupines, marmots, pink foxes, flying squirrels, crested myna birds, snakes, vipers, cobras and Siamese crocodiles. Virtually the entire animals have been “offered alive, caged, stacked and in poor situation,” the researchers wrote, and have been usually butchered on website.

James Gorman contributed reporting.

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