KABUL: The Chinese research team says that evidence from surveys and studies have shown that corronavirus most highly related to SARS-CoV-2 were found in bats and pangolins.
“These mammals may be the reservoir of the virus that causes COVID-19, due to the high similarity in genetic sequences between the sample virus and SARS-CoV-2,” said a press release of the China-World Health Organization. “However, the viruses identified so far from neither of these two species are sufficiently similar to SARS-CoV-2 to serve as direct progenitor of the SARS-CoV-2.”
The findings show that there may be additional species of animals such as those belonging to mustelidae or felidae family, the press release said. “For example those belonging to mustelidae or felidae family as well as other species, as potential reservoir.”
In July 2020, WHO and China began the ground work for the studies to identify the virus origins. The WHO Secretariat and the Chinese government have jointly set up an international multidisciplinary team to design, support and conduct these studies to contribute to the tracing of the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and the route of its transmission to human beings.
The press release said that the joint international team comprises 17 Chinese experts and 17 international experts from ten other countries. The experts also represented the WHO, World Organization of Animal Health, partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). The research was conducted in a period of 28-day from January 14th to February 10th 2021 in Wuhan.
“The joint expert team, through its three working groups, reviewed and discussed together the progress made by Chinese experts in phase one studies in the following three areas: epidemiology, animals and environment, molecular epidemiology and bioinformatics,” the press release added.
Prof. Marion Koopmans from the department of Virology of the College of Medicine of Erasmus University in the Netherlands said that the team came to China to find out about the initial outbreak.
“We came here with two goals, two objectives. One was to try to get a better understanding of what happened at the beginning of the event in December 2019,” she said. “This was the starting point for our work, but also the starting point of the initial outbreak. We’ve focused on trying to understand what happened during that period and trying to see if that period had a previous history, could we move the history of the start of the outbreak further down the line in earlier weeks of 2019.”
The second goal, she said, was to embark on trying to understand how the Covid-19 emerged and happened. “So these were two broad objectives we had and all our studies and work and discussion and visits were trying to get better understanding of these two pictures.”
During this period, MR. Ma Xiaowei, the Minister of National Health Commission has been discussing and having extensive communication with Doctor Tedros, the Director General of WHO through telephone. They thoroughly exchanged ideas in terms of the scientific cooperation on the origin tracing.
Professor Liang Wannian, the team leader from the Chinese said that the research was conducted based on World Health Organization’s request. The aim of the research was to prevent re-infection with the virus in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of a new zoonotic reservoir.