A major new study has claimed that the novel coronavirus could not have come from animals sold at a wet market in Wuhan, China. Rather, the new research claims that the disease was brought to Wuhan by someone who was already infected. Meanwhile, the source of COVID-19 remains unknown as China continues to stonewall efforts to learn the origin of the disease.
The new paper, published on BioRxIV, points to the fact that the virus is particularly well-adapted to human transmission, suggesting that it had been active in humans for a while. In fact, when the researchers compared the evolutionary dynamics of COVID-19 with the related 2003 SARS coronavirus, they discovered that COVID-19 resembled the latter "in the late phase of the 2003 epidemic after SARS-CoV had developed several advantageous adaptations for human transmission."
The researchers also discounted the notion that the virus could have originated at a wet market in Wuhan, which had been the previously accepted source of the disease, after comparing samples found in humans and at the market.
The evidence collected by the team showed that the two samples were identical. If the virus had jumped from an animal, the matches would actually not be identical, as the virus would have needed time to adapt its mechanisms to a human host.
"The publicly available genetic data does not point to cross-species transmission of the virus at the market," concluded molecular biologist Alina Chan and evolutionary biologist Shing Zhan on their findings (via The Daily Mail).
The paper also pointed out that "no animal sampling prior to the shut down and sanitization of the market was reported."
This stands in stark contrast to how the Chinese government handled the 2003 SARS outbreak, when officials were sure to execute "thorough and swift animal sampling."
In addition, the paper claimed that all "zoonotic" forms of transmission should be studied -- including the possibility that the virus had been genetically man-made.
"The possibility that a non-genetically-engineered precursor could have adapted to humans while being studied in a laboratory should be considered," the paper added.
Since February, rumors had been circulating that the true origin of the coronavirus was actually a virology lab located in Wuhan that had been studying types of coronaviruses. One of the bases for the hypothesis was that the type of bat that likely sourced COVID-19 was not native to Wuhan. However, it had been the subject of experiments in the lab.
Though the hypothesis was originally ridiculed as a conspiracy theory, it has begun to gather steam from both officials and the public. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that there was "strong evidence" for the claims but appeared to stop short of embracing them fully.