Pillar 2
Host-Pathogen Interactions

A recent study addressing the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has been published in the journal Science by a team of 18 scientists led by Michael Worobey and including CoVaRR-Net Pillar 2 lead Angela Rasmussen, virologist at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, and an adjunct professor of biochemistry, microbiology, and immunology at the University of Saskatchewan.

This study pinpoints the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic as the southwest corner of the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China where live wild animals were sold.

The authors show that the earliest known COVID-19 cases from December 2019 all centre around the Huanan market. The market sold live animals that included a number of species susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 (the name for the virus that causes the disease COVID-19). Samples taken in and around the area where these animals were sold also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.  There was also evidence that both of the very early viral strains, designated “A” and “B”, also likely entered the human population via two separate zoonotic spillover events, or transmission from animals to humans.

Taken together, these findings lay to rest the hypothesis that COVID-19 was caused by an escaped virus generated in a lab and affirm that the pandemic began in the Huanan market of Wuhan as a result of the live animal trade.  It is crucial that we understand the events that lead to the zoonotic transmission from animals to humans of SARS-C0V-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic if we are to avoid future possible viral pandemics.

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Michael Worobey, Joshua I. Levy, Lorena Malpica Serrano, Alexander Crits-Cristoph, Jonathan E, Pekar, Stephen A. Goldstein, Angela L. Rasmussen, Moritz U.G. Kraemer, Chris Newman, Marion P.G. Koopmans, Marc Suchard, Joel O. Wertheim, Philippe Lemey, David L. Robertson, Robert F. Garry, Edward C. Holmes, Andrew Rambaut, and Kristian G. Anderson. The Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science. 2022; 7(26):e8715. DOI:10.1126.science.abp8715.