Covid’s Origin Linked to Racoon Dogs at Wuhan Market

By Jonathan Spira on 17 March 2023
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We are now looking at the strongest evidence yet that the pandemic was not caused by a lab leak but rather by an animal at a wet market.  A report with the research team’s complete findings hasn’t yet been published but is expected to be released within several weeks.  Their analysis was first reported in the Atlantic.

Since the start of the pandemic, many scientists have stood by the notion that this outbreak – like almost all others – had purely natural origins.  What was missing was proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected wildlife that were offered for sale there.

The answer isn’t bats, nor is it pangolins nor palm civets.  Apparently another suspect species has landed in the spotlight.

A new analysis of genetic sequences, collected from the wet market that show racoon dogs were offered for sale at the there, may have found the missing link.  Curiously enough, the genetic samples from the market had been recently uploaded to an international database and were then removed after scientists asked China about them.

The raccoon dog, also called the Chinese or Asian raccoon dog, is a small, heavy-set, fox-like canid native to East Asia.  It was named for its racoon-like facial markings, but it is most closely related to foxes.

This week, an international team of virologists, genomicists, and evolutionary biologists may have finally found crucial data to help fill that knowledge gap. A new analysis of genetic sequences collected from the market shows that raccoon dogs being illegally sold at the venue could have been carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019.  The genetic data links SARS-CoV-2 with the raccoon dogs and the evidence shows that the virus was zoonotic and moved from animals at the wet market to humans.

The genetic samples were obtained after Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market – the wet market in question –  was closed. Researchers moved in and swabbed walls, floors, metal cages, and carts used to transport animal cages because of the suspicions that the market was somehow linked to the new virus.

The samples that came back positive for the coronavirus included genetic material that belongs to animals, including large amounts that were a match for the raccoon dog, the researchers said.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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