Data from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic provided crucial insights into the origins of the outbreak, researchers say.
THE virus was first identified in Wuhan in December 2019, with the Huanan live animal market widely believed to be the source, before quickly spreading around the world and killing nearly seven million people.
This week, the scientists released a pre-printed report based on their interpretation of the data.
This follows previous leaks of the report to the media and a meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO), which urged China to release more information.
However, the data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer available on the GISAID database where it was discovered by the scientists.
Scientists said it included new virus sequences and additional genomic data based on samples taken from a live animal market in Wuhan in 2020.
The footage showed that raccoon dogs and other animals susceptible to COVID-19 were on the market and may have been infected – providing experts with a new clue into the chain of transmission that eventually reached humans.
“This adds to the body of evidence identifying Huanan Market as the spillover location for Sars-CoV-2 and the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the scientists said in the report.
Raccoon dogs in Wuhan market linked to origins of COVID in new study
COVID-19 will be over as a public health emergency this year, WHO says
Authors who accessed the data included Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and Florence Débarre of Sorbonne University in Paris.
The report also added more details about other animals present in the Wuhan market and showed that some of the COVID-positive environmental samples contained more animal genetic material than human, consistent with infected animals.
WHO officials said last week that the leaked information was inconclusive but nonetheless represented a new lead in the investigation into the origins of the virus. They also said it should have been shared right away.
The Chinese CDC was not immediately available for comment.