Analysis of genetic data from in and around Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market shows that raccoon dogs, which were being sold illegally at the market, may have been “carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019”
The scientific community stands divided even three years after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. But now, a team of international scientists have found genetic data that links the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic to raccoon dogs that were sold at a wet market in Wuhan.
This new finding has strengthened the theory of many experts that the pandemic had a natural origin. The common raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) is a canid indigenous to mainland East Asia and northern Vietnam. Despite its name, its closest relatives are true foxes and not American raccoons.
The raccoon dog was also a kind of meat available at the Wuhan market along with bats, snakes, beavers, and porcupines. The research team from Europe, North America, and Australia collected genetic data using swabs from in and around Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and nearby areas in 2020.
The data was then uploaded to a global database by researchers affiliated with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2023.
Analysis of the data shows that raccoon dogs, which were being sold illegally at the market, may have been “carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019”.
The findings, however, do not definitively prove that the virus jumped from raccoon dogs to humans but still strengthen the argument that the Covid pandemic might be linked to illegal wildlife trade in China’s wet markets.
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