Within the two years earlier than the pandemic started, markets in the Chinese city of Wuhan had been promoting almost three dozen animal species that may harbor pathogens that soar to people, researchers have found, shedding new gentle on the potential position of the wildlife commerce within the coronavirus’s origins.
The researchers discovered gross sales in Wuhan of mink, palm civets and raccoon dogs, however they didn’t discover gross sales of pangolins or bats, which have been suspected as potential 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 ailments 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 yr. The nation’s wildlife commerce performed a key position within the SARS outbreak within the early 2000s.
A crew of consultants who led a World Health Organization mission to Wuhan this yr examined vendor data and different proof from the town’s animal markets. However the crew reached no agency conclusions in regards to the markets’ position within the outbreak, or in regards to the particular species by way of which the coronavirus may need unfold to people.
Greater than a yr into the pandemic, the query of the virus’s origins stays largely unresolved. The Biden administration final month introduced a new push to research whether or not it may have unintentionally leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.
President Biden’s motion got here as prime well being officers renewed their appeals this week for a extra rigorous inquiry. And it adopted mounting criticism of a report from a crew of worldwide consultants convened by the World Well being Group that largely dismissed the likelihood that the virus had unintentionally 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, although they assume the virus was most likely transmitted from animals to people outdoors of a laboratory. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at College of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Illness Group, mentioned of the brand new research, “I feel this places a giant level within the column of pure origin by way of intermediate species.” She mentioned that whereas the paper “doesn’t show something” it “supplies clear proof that the wildlife markets actually haven’t been investigated sufficient.”
The research of the animal markets, published 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 performed month-to-month surveys of all 17 retailers in Wuhan markets that bought reside wild animals for meals and pets. Seven of those retailers had been on the metropolis’s Huanan seafood market. A number of early Covid circumstances in Wuhan had 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, had been badgers, hedgehogs, weasels, porcupines, marmots, purple foxes, flying squirrels, crested myna birds, snakes, vipers, cobras and Siamese crocodiles. Virtually all the animals had been “bought alive, caged, stacked and in poor situation,” the researchers wrote, and had been usually butchered on website.