New coronavirus data revealed has rekindled a debate about the origin of the virus

The data collected in 2020 — and not made public since — is likely to add weight to the animal theory. It highlights a potential suspect: the raccoon dog. But exactly how much weight it adds depends on who you ask. New analyzes of the data have only rekindled the debate and stirred up some serious drama.

The current uproar begins with research shared by Chinese scientists in February 2022. In a preprint (a scientific paper that has not been peer-reviewed or published), George Gao of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) and his colleagues described how they collected and analyzed 1,380 samples from Huanan. Seafood Market.

These samples were collected between January and March 2020, shortly after the market closed. At the time, the team wrote that they had only found coronavirus in samples along with human genetic material.

There are many animals for sale at this market, which sells more than just seafood. The Gao newspaper gives a long list, including chickens, ducks, geese, pheasants, pigeons, deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, hedgehogs, crocodiles, snakes and salamanders. And that list is not exhaustive – there are reports of other animals being traded there, including raccoons. We will come back to them later.

But Gao and his colleagues reported that they found no coronavirus in any of the 18 animal species they looked at. They suggest that it was humans who most likely brought the virus to the market, which eventually became the first known epicenter of the outbreak.

Fast forward to March 2023. On March 4, Florence Débarre, an evolutionary biologist at the Sorbonne University in Paris, discovered some data had been uploaded to GISAID, a website that allows researchers to share data genetics to help them study and track infectious viruses. The data appears to have been uploaded in June 2022. It appears that this data was collected by Gao and his colleagues for their study in February 2022, although this data was not included. to the actual article.

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