Report: Data Ties COVID Origins to Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market

    Report: Data Ties COVID Origins to Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market
    Last updated Mar 18, 2023
    Image credit: nytimes


    • Virus researchers say they have found genetic data from a market in Wuhan, China, allegedly linking the COVID virus with the sale of raccoon dogs in that location, adding to evidence that the pandemic could have been started by an infected animal sold through the illegal wildlife trade.[1]
    • The new findings haven't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and there's no definite answer on how the virus could jump from raccoon dogs to humans, but the team said it is the strongest evidence of the natural transmission theory.[2]
    • The report — conducted by researchers from Europe, Australia, and North America — analyzed data uploaded to a global database affiliated with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week. The data was reportedly derived from swabs taken from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the start of the outbreak.[3]
    • According to the team, they extended an invitation to collaborate with the Chinese researchers who had uploaded the data, after which it was removed from the database. It's unclear, however, why it was taken down or who removed it.[1]
    • Meanwhile, the lab leak theory has garnered headlines in recent weeks after the US Dept. of Energy released an intelligence assessment saying it believes with "low confidence" that COVID leaked from a lab, with the US GOP-led House backing the theory with a succession of hearings. China, however, denies this hypothesis.[3]
    • Beijing has also previously rejected speculation that COVID may have been sparked by illegal wildlife trade within its wet markets. Last year, Chinese scientists — citing the same raw data retrieved from the Wuhan market — concluded the virus traces originated from people at the market rather than the animals.[3]


    Narrative A

    The discovery of genetic material from both the virus and an animal known to be susceptible to it, as is the case with raccoon dogs, is a strong indication that an infection of that animal may have taken place at the market at the time the pandemic began. This isn't exactly a smoking gun, but it's the strongest evidence for a natural origin of COVID, casting doubt on the sinister theory that it originated from a lab leak.

    Narrative B

    This latest development doesn't actually offer any substance on how COVID originated; the report merely suggests that animals that can carry COVID were present at the market but offers no proof that they transmitted it to humans. The analysis is further weakened by its lack of corroboration within the scientific community — a fault that is likely here to stay as the data has suspiciously been removed. Until more conclusive findings are shared, all theories, including the lab leak hypothesis, are on the table.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 37% chance that by January 1, 2025, at least two public health agencies will claim that COVID more likely than not originated in a laboratory, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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