Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market May Have Been Covid-19's Origin, Study Suggests

International Team of Virus Experts Investigate Genetic Data from Swabs Taken in January 2020

Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market May Have Been Covid-19's Origin, Study Suggests

An international team of virus experts suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic may have originated from raccoon dogs at the Wuhan market in China. The origins of Covid-19 have been a topic of political and scientific debate for over two years, with some arguing that the virus jumped from bats to humans, while others believe it leaked from a laboratory.

The unpublished study, led by experts from the Universities of Arizona, Utah, and Sydney, and the Scripps Research Institute, is based on genetic data obtained from swabs taken in and around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in January 2020. Although Chinese authorities shut down the market and removed the animals, researchers were able to collect samples by swabbing walls, floors, metal cages, and carts used to transport animal cages.

The results revealed that a significant amount of genetic material matched that of raccoon dogs, which are related to foxes and known to transmit the coronavirus. However, the researchers emphasize that the presence of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not definitively prove that a raccoon dog was infected or that it transmitted the virus to humans. Other animals could have passed the virus to people, or an infected person could have spread it to a raccoon dog.

Despite these uncertainties, the study establishes that raccoon dogs left genetic signatures in the same location as the virus, consistent with a scenario in which the virus spilled into humans from a wild animal. While the researchers could not confirm the presence of an infected animal at the market, they believe that given the unavailability of animal samples, the genetic material is as close as they can get to determining the virus's origin.