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Could this cuddly looking creature be the cause of the coronavirus pandemic?
Three years after COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, the scientific community remains bitterly divided over the origins of the virus, despite growing consensus that it was created during gain-of-function research inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology I went.
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But a new analysis of genetic material from the infamous Wuhan wet market points to a new unlikely culprit – the raccoon dog.
Analysis of genetic sequences collected from the market in January 2020 suggests that raccoon dogs being sold illegally at the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market were carrying and shedding the virus at the outbreak of the epidemic. the Atlantic.
However, the researchers who conducted the analysis expressed caution about their own findings, which do not conclusively prove that raccoon dogs were the original host of the virus. also found findings derision by some politicians and punditsOne saying that the raccoon dog hypothesis is nothing more than a distraction from mounting evidence that the virus was leaked from a laboratory.
Meanwhile, genetic sequences were reportedly pulled from swabs inside and near market stalls shortly after the initial spread of the virus was shut down by Chinese authorities.
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“It really strengthens the case for a natural origin,” Seema Lakdawala, a
the Emory University virologist told the outlet.
Raccoon dogs are small, bulky mammals native to East Asia and most closely related to foxes. The animals were allegedly sold illegally in the wet market for years.
Researchers affiliated with China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week posted the genetic sequence to a database called GISAID.
They were soon spotted by researchers who downloaded them from a database and began an analysis. A few days later, genetic sequences were mysteriously removed from GISAID without explanation.
Virologist Christian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute in California led the analysis of the genetic sequences; Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia; and Michael Worobe, a virologist at the University of Arizona.
According to The Atlantic, the trio found that “several surfaces in and around a stall at the market, including a cart and a defeathering machine, produced virus-positive samples that also contained genetic material from the raccoon dog.”
It is the first time an animal such as the fox has been fingered as a possible host of the virus – although the researchers cautioned about their own findings.
“Do we know that the intermediate hosts were raccoon dogs? No,” Anderson pointedly told The Atlantic. “Is it high up on my list of potential hosts? Yes, but it certainly isn’t the only one.”
Indeed, as the New York Times Research Report: “Combining genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected. And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal spread the virus to people.” Was.”
Meanwhile, the potential new theory has been openly ridiculed by some officials and social media pundits.
Republican Representative Jim Jordan Tweeted: “They told us that #COVID has evolved from a bat, to a pangolin, to a RACCOON DOG. But if you think it came from a lab, you’re a conspiracy theorist.
“Very coincidental that they come out with that information when the US Department of Energy balks at the lab leak and Congress begins hearings on the origins of Covid. It’s a distraction said another user.
In fact, this new theory has emerged following a classified report from the US Department of Energy – with “low confidence” – that the virus behind COVID-19 most likely leaked from a Chinese lab.
The claim comes more than a year after the FBI’s findings A lab accident in China was the origin of the diseaseWhich has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide, including 1.1 million in the US.
The FBI’s decision was made with “moderate confidence” and the bureau’s opinion remains.
COVID-19 pandemic may have originated in raccoon dogs in China: report
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