New data links the origin of the epidemic to raccoon dogs in a Wuhan market

Virus experts have been eagerly awaiting that raw sequence data from the market since learning of its existence in a Chinese report from February 2022. Dr. Debare said he alerted other scientists, including the leaders of the group that published the latest set of studies. Year indicating origin of the market.

An international team — including Michael Worobe, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona; Christian Anderson, a virologist at Scripps Research Institute in California; and Edward Holmes, a biologist at the University of Sydney — began mining the new genetic data last week.

One model in particular caught their attention. Scientists involved in the analysis said it was taken from a cart attached to a particular stall in the Huanan market visited by Dr Holmes in 2014. That stall, Dr. Holmes found, had raccoon dogs caged on top of a separate cage that housed the birds, an ideal environment for new viruses to spread.

A swab taken from a cart in early 2020 contained genetic material from the virus and a raccoon dog, the research team found.

“In one of these samples, we were able to find relatively quickly that there was a lot of raccoon dog nucleic acid along with viral nucleic acid,” said Stephen Goldstein, a virologist at the University of Utah. A new analysis. (Nucleic acids are the chemical building blocks that carry genetic information.)

After the international team stumbled upon the new data, they approached the Chinese researchers who had uploaded the files with an offer to cooperate, according to the rules of the online repository, scientists involved in the new analysis said. After that, the footage disappeared from GISAID.

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It is not known who removed them and why.

Dr. Debare said the research team is looking for more data, including some from market samples that are not always made public. “The key is to have more data,” he said.

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