Researchers at University College London and the University of Reunion Island carried out a joint study that analysed more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from around the world since January. As a result of examining the mutations in the virus from these samples, scientists now think that SARS-COV-2 jumped from its initial host to humans at some point between October 6 and December 11. Their findings will be published in the forthcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection Genetics and Evolution and will give credence to the theory that the deadly virus was circulating earlier than thought.
China announced its first case of COVID-19 at the end of December, with the patient dying from the disease on January 11.
However, experts started to suspect that the coronavirus was already being transmitted among people a lot earlier than this date, as a result of testimony provided by a French athlete.
Olympic silver medallist pentathlete Elodie Clouvel and her boyfriend fell ill after taking part in the Military World Games, held in Wuhan between October 18 and 27 and involving over 9,000 athletes from 109 countries.
According to Ms Clouvel, doctors told her that it was likely that she had caught COVID-19.
In an interview with RTL radio, she said: “We all fell ill with the same symptoms.
“We have recently had a contact with the military doctor, who said to us: ‘I think you had [it] because there were a lot of people who were ill afterwards’.”
Other French team members have since claimed that they also fell ill, according to French media reports.
The French army has denied all knowledge of anyone contracting the disease during the games.
As a result of this discovery, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged other countries to investigate any other early suspicious cases.
Referring to the French report, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing in Geneva: “This gives a whole new picture on everything.
“The findings help to better understand the potential virus circulation of COVID-19.”
Mr Lindmeier encouraged other countries to check records for pneumonia cases of unspecified origin in late 2019, since this would give a “new and clearer picture” of the outbreak.
Asked about the origins of the virus in China, Mr Lindmeier stressed that it was “really, really important” to explore this.
Earlier in the week, US Sectretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated from a Wuhan laboratory.
Mr Pompeo also said that this was not the first time that Chinese lab failures had allowed a deadly virus to escape and endanger the world
The Secretary of State told ABC news: “There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset.
“But I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”
China strongly denies the allegation and insists the virus spread to humans naturally.
Published at Sat, 09 May 2020 01:37:00 +0000