WHO’s report on the origins of the coronavirus outlines four plausible scenarios

A new report released by the World Health Organization, which was aimed at finding the origins of the coronavirus, has inferred four plausible scenarios that triggered the global pandemic.

The findings of the report, which was drawn out by an international team of experts who set out for a 28- day trip to Wuhan, China. The report, which was published on March 30, shows evidence which indicates that the virus, SARS-CoV-2, most likely got transmitted to humans from bats through another animal. It also indicates that the virus likely did not come from a lab, though officials are not ruling out any possible scenario. 

The team concluded that the most likely scenarios are the transmission of the virus to people either directly from bats or, more likely, through an intermediate animal host, like a civet or raccoon dog, while the possibility of a lab leak is unlikely, according to the researchers.

According to WHO Director-General Tedris Adhanom Ghebreyesus, some explanations may be more probable than others, but for now, all possibilities remain on the table. “This report is a very important beginning, but it’s not the end,” he said. “ We have not yet found the source of the virus and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned. Finding the origin of the virus takes time….No single research trip can provide all the answers.” At present, the WHO report has drawn out four big takeaways from its research.

The first takeaway is that markets are the most probable source of major transmission of the virus, especially markets that sell animals. The findings implied that the seafood market in Wuhan which was believed to be the original source of the virus, may have helped to spread the virus among people due to large crowds and that the market was not the original source after all. The investigation also found that other similar markets have also played a role in transmitting the virus to the public.

The coronavirus probably was not widely circulating before December 2019 is the second takeaway from the study. The team found that there’s not yet evidence that the virus was extensively spreading among people in early December, before the first report on December 8, 2019. 

The third detraction is that the “lab-leak” hypothesis is unlikely, although scientists aren’t willing to disband that scenario completely. The lab leak “is possible, but there’s no evidence to support it,” says Massa Shoura, a biophysicist and genomics expert at Stanford University who was not involved in the study. Last of all, experts are far from knowing the origins of the coronavirus. Rather, it gives context for the possibilities and helps in perfecting further studies on this matter. 

“We have only scratched the surface of these very complex studies that need to be conducted,” WHO’s Ben Embarek said.




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