Coronavirus likely came from animal, not a lab, WHO draft report finds

Covid-19 probably came to people through an animal, and likely started spreading no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019, a Wor...

Posted: Mar 30, 2021 9:50 AM

Covid-19 probably came to people through an animal, and likely started spreading no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019, a World Health Organization draft report finds.

The least likely source: a laboratory leak, the WHO's joint international team concluded.

WHO is scheduled to release the final report on its investigation into the origins of coronavirus on Tuesday, but a draft version of the report obtained by CNN shows there's still no smoking gun and no evidence suggesting the virus was spreading any earlier than the very end of 2019.

The report gives four possible sources for the virus and the most likely scenario is via an intermediate animal host, possibly a wild animal captured and then raised on a farm.

But the investigation has not found what other animal was infected by a bat -- considered the most likely original source of the virus -- and then may have transmitted it to a human. "The possible intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2 remains elusive," it reads.

Next likely is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin. Possible but not probable is transmission from frozen or chilled food, and least likely is an accidental laboratory release, the report finds.

Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that his personal opinion was the virus was released from a lab.

The report says this is "extremely unlikely." "There is no record of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019, or genomes that in combination could provide a SARS-CoV-2 genome," it reads. "In view of the above, a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely."

Independent researchers have been saying this for months. Genomic testing of the virus indicates it was not engineered in a lab but passed naturally from animals -- as did the SARS virus that infected 8,000 people globally in 2002-2004 before it was stopped.

Frozen food is also not a likely source, the report indicates. "There is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the probability of a cold-chain contamination with the virus from a reservoir is very low," it says.

The role of the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan is also unclear. It's possible the market was not the original source of the outbreak, but that the crowds that gathered at the market -- which was densely packed, with a roof and open sewers -- may have amplified the spread of the virus.

Sampling at the market turned up the virus on surfaces but not in samples taken from animals or food sold at the market. Plus, there is evidence the virus was circulating before the Huanan market outbreak -- including at other markets.

"Many of the early cases were associated with the Huanan market, but a similar number of cases were associated with other markets and some were not associated with any markets. Transmission within the wider community in December could account for cases not associated with the Huanan market which, together with the presence of early cases not associated with that market, could suggest that the Huanan market was not the original source of the outbreak," the report added.

"No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn," the report concludes.

The report recommends more testing of blood samples taken and stored before the first outbreak in December, more testing of animals from Southeast Asia, and more in-depth study of mass gatherings that could have aided the spread of the virus.

The report was written by a joint international team made up of 17 Chinese experts plus 17 experts from other countries, WHO, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) participated as an observer.

"Following initial online meetings, a joint study was conducted over a 28-day period from 14 January to 10 February 2021 in the city of Wuhan, People's Republic of China," the report reads.

The team looked for evidence the virus was circulating in China before anyone noticed.

"The epidemiology working group closely examined the possibilities of identifying earlier cases of COVID-19 through studies from surveillance of morbidity (illness) due to respiratory diseases in and around Wuhan in late 2019," it read.

"It also drew on national sentinel surveillance data; laboratory confirmations of disease; reports of retail pharmacy purchases for antipyretics (fever reducers), cold and cough medications; a convenience subset of stored samples of more than 4,500 research project samples from the second half of 2019 stored at various hospitals in Wuhan, the rest of Hubei Province and other provinces. In none of these studies was there evidence of an impact of the causative agent of COVID-19 on morbidity in the months before the outbreak of COVID-19."

The report suggests further checks into farms as a possible source of the virus.

"Although the closest related viruses have been found in bats, the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link," the report reads.

Animals such as mink and rabbits are susceptible to the virus, the report noted. Mink farms in several countries have been the cause of outbreaks of Covid-19.

"The increasing number of animals shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 includes animals that are farmed in sufficient densities to allow potential for enzootic circulation. High-density farming is common in many places across the world and includes many livestock species as well as farmed wildlife. There was a large network of domesticated wild animal farms, supplying farmed wildlife."

US White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the report is being reviewed by federal government agencies, including the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the National institutes of Health and others. Psaki said those public health experts "will be reviewing this report intensively and quickly."

"We will wait for that review to conclude. We have been clear that an independent, technically sound investigation is what our focus is on, and once this is reviewed we'll have an assessment about the steps forward," she told a briefing.

Psaki said the US is communicating with its allies "to share our ongoing concerns, which we have stated in the past, of course, about the process and our scientific analysis of the report itself."

Terre Haute
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 66°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 66°
Indianapolis
Mostly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 66°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 66°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 66°
Sunny and dry, but cool and breezy!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1605320

Reported Deaths: 27132
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61354910964
DuPage1039171357
Will873121089
Lake771121060
Kane65888850
Winnebago39007544
Madison38143576
St. Clair35003569
McHenry33032316
Peoria25972362
Champaign25862182
Sangamon24588271
McLean21879207
Tazewell19736326
Rock Island17806344
Kankakee16784234
Kendall15459106
LaSalle14496275
Macon14478240
Vermilion13234189
Adams12695148
DeKalb11667128
Williamson11419157
Whiteside7897176
Jackson769188
Boone760082
Coles7341112
Ogle713486
Grundy701281
Franklin686899
Clinton681498
Knox6651164
Marion6547138
Macoupin646399
Henry620474
Jefferson6060132
Effingham604382
Livingston571295
Woodford554291
Stephenson546289
Randolph529297
Monroe508199
Christian491780
Fulton487970
Morgan487296
Logan477474
Montgomery467476
Lee458156
Bureau427188
Perry415171
Saline409263
Fayette398956
Iroquois394673
McDonough354956
Jersey322253
Shelby311843
Douglas306636
Crawford304130
Lawrence301131
Union296747
Wayne274057
White265930
Richland262054
Hancock256334
Pike255956
Cass250928
Clark250738
Bond244024
Clay240047
Ford235256
Edgar234744
Carroll225437
Warren224960
Johnson213524
Moultrie211831
Jo Daviess206126
Washington206127
Wabash200915
Greene200739
Mason199351
Massac198144
De Witt195530
Piatt190814
Mercer190634
Cumberland178325
Menard158612
Jasper152418
Marshall134721
Hamilton128821
Brown10178
Pulaski98311
Schuyler9688
Edwards96315
Stark76827
Gallatin7435
Scott6975
Alexander67611
Henderson65114
Calhoun6442
Hardin56013
Putnam5444
Pope4815
Unassigned1882432
Out of IL40

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479