China's Covid origin research reveals presence of animal DNA in swabs that tested positive in Huanan market

Study suggests that it’s possible an animal could have been an intermediate host

Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market Representational image | AP

A Chinese research team studying the origin of Covid and which analysed samples from the Huanan seafood and wildlife market revealed presence of animal DNA in samples that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

According to reports, this was the first peer-reviewed study to be published on the origins of Covid-19. In the study published in 'Nature' journal, researchers suggested swab samples collected from the market, at the beginning of the pandemic, contained genetic material from wild animals and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. “This suggests that it’s possible an animal could have been an intermediate host of a virus that spilled over to infect humans,” the report said. The study was conducted by researchers at Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

However, researchers added, “the latest findings still fall short of providing definitive proof that SARS-CoV-2 originated from an animal-to-human spillover event.” According to the study, from January 1, 2020, after closure of the market, 923 samples were collected from the environment. From January 18, 457 samples were collected from 18 species of animals, comprising of unsold contents of refrigerators and freezers, swabs from stray animals, and the contents of a fish tank. 

The WHO on Thursday demanded China to release “far more data that could shed light on the origins of Covid-19.” “Without full access to the information that China has, all hypotheses are on the table,” South China Morning Post quoted WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying in Geneva.

SCMP quoted Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead as saying that the new data provided 'clues', but no clear answers. She added that data collected in January and February 2020 should have been shared long ago. 

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