We have reached a crucial point in the study of Covid origins, with “the window of opportunity” for proper investigation closing, scientists have warned. Despite this, research efforts appear to have stalled. BBC News has the story.
Researchers asked by the World Health Organisation to find the cause of the initial outbreak say the process has stalled, in scientific journal Nature.
And further delay could make crucial studies “biologically impossible”.
They are calling on political and scientific leaders to expedite those studies “while there is still time”.
Dutch Virologist Professor Marion Koopmans, a member of the WHO team, told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme the risk of pandemics was increasing.
“Because of the way the world is changing – population increase, crowding and more interaction between humans and animals, we need to learn where things go wrong and how we can avoid that in the future,” she said.
The WHO team visited Wuhan in January and published a report in March recommending:
~ searching blood banks in China and other countries for antibodies to the virus in blood donated in the months preceding the December 2019 outbreak
~ taking samples from farmed wild animals such as mink and racoon dog that might be the “intermediate host” that allowed the virus to jump species
But since farmed animals have a limited lifespan and blood banks store donations for a fixed period, the researchers are worried that valuable biological information may already have been lost.
The politically contentious issue of whether the virus might have escaped from a laboratory in China had also made some of the work more difficult, Professor Koopmans said.
All the lines of inquiry were relevant, she said, “but when accusations get mixed with the scientific questions, things become quite difficult”.
In their report, however, the team concluded while it was impossible to determine how the virus had infected the first humans, “all available evidence” suggested it had a natural animal origin and was “not a manipulated or constructed virus”.
Worth reading in full.