March 29, 2021 – The novel coronavirus has most likely been transmitted from bats to humans by another species of mammals, while a laboratory leak of the virus is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy of a joint World Health Organization report -China on the origins of COVID-19 pandemic which was obtained by the Associated press.
The results are largely based on a visit by a WHO team earlier this year to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected.
The study notes that the closest relative of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was found in bats, but “the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated decades, suggesting a missing link, “the AP reported.
Very similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, which suggests that they could be carriers as well, according to the study.
The study project all but rejected a speculative theory that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, the AP reported.
There is no firm conclusion on whether the pandemic originated in a Wuhan seafood market where one of the first clusters of cases occurred in December 2019.
The study was finalized and was being verified and translated, said Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO expert who led the Wuhan mission. AP.
“I hope that in the next few days this whole process will be completed and we can publish it publicly,” he said.
It is not clear if there will be any changes to the study before it is released. WHO did not immediately respond to the AP requests for comments.
The study project provides little new information on how the virus began to spread around the world and leaves many questions unanswered, and investigators offered additional research in all areas except of the theory of laboratory leaks.