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The origin of COVID-19 is still unknown, but what is the next step for WHO experts?

A group of scientists wants a new study, including biosecurity and biosafety experts, to investigate the origin of COVID-19.

A joint international and Chinese mission organized by the World Health Organization on the origin of COVID released its report last week, suggesting that more research is needed on almost every topic it covers. The question is who will do what kind of research.

The report suggested pursuing multiple research lines, focusing on possible origins. Coronavirus With bats. We conclude that the most likely route to humans is probably via intermediate animals on wildlife farms. The team will be part of future efforts, including a blood bank survey to look for cases that may have appeared before December 2019, and tracking of potential animal sources of the virus on wildlife farms. There is a possibility of becoming.

The origin of COVID19 still obscures what the next step is for WHO experts.

Liang Wannian, China’s co-leader of the China-WHO joint study, said: COVID-19 (New Coronavirus Infection) Pandemic speaks at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Image Credit: AP Photo / Mark Schiefelbein

Critics of the report have sought more consideration as to the possibility that a laboratory incident in Wuhan could lead to the first human infection. This week, a group of scientists and other broad organizations discussing the potential for laboratory leaks issued an open letter detailing several ways to conduct a thorough investigation. It called for further action, arguing that “significant records and biological samples that may provide essential insights into the origin of the pandemic remain inaccessible.”

Many of the letters reflect previous releases from the same group detailing what they saw as a failure of the WHO mission. This second letter is more specific in the type of future research it proposes.

This group is seeking new research, including biosecurity and biosafety experts. This could include the efforts of WHO and other multinational corporations to set up another process for investigating the beginning of the pandemic and its origin in China.

Jamie Mezel — Author; Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, an international policy think tank. Signer of Scientist’s Letter — A new call for more thorough investigation said it reflects the need for stronger surveillance and restrictions on which viruses can be studied in laboratories around the world. ..

“This is not about a partnership with China,” Metsle said.

Metzl’s group said it was very unlikely to be one of those disappointed in a report published last week because it uncontrollably rejected a possible leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virginology. ..

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, later stated that the mission review of potential leaks in the lab was “not broad enough.”

He continued. “The team concluded that laboratory leaks were the least likely hypothesis, but this requires further investigation and additional missions, including experts I’m ready to deploy. May be accompanied. “

Read again: Bats and scale armors may have been the source of the Wuhan virus

From the beginning, the mission task was not to investigate security or procedures at the Wuhan Institute of Vat, where much research is done on the bat. Coronavirus In recent years, or in other labs in China.

WHO member states have approved a joint scientific effort by a group of international experts and their Chinese counterparts to study the origins of the pandemic.

The international team of scientists did not have the power or authority to act independently of their Chinese colleagues. As directed by Member States, all words in the report had to be approved by both Chinese and international groups. They stayed in China for 28 days, two weeks of which were isolated at the hotel.

Results, including an extensive review of existing scientific literature, sort out evidence that supports a mainstream understanding of the origin of the virus, it is a bat. Coronavirus In most cases, I gave it to another animal and then to a human.This is what happened before Coronavirus Outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Similar viruses have been found in bats and scales, but not close enough to spill on humans. Labo Leak’s suspicion is that Chinese laboratories are collecting and studying these viruses, and Chinese scientists are lying about their research, or what’s happening at their facility. It is based on the idea of ​​not knowing.

According to Shi Zhengli, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Vase, and other internationally renowned Chinese scientists, SARS-CoV-2 does not exist in the Chinese laboratory, and there is no virus close enough to make a leap to people. It says that it was.

Some experts who did not even sign an open letter criticizing WHO believe that another type of investigation is needed.

Dr. Daniel Lucy, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University, said he believed that the virus came from nature, based on the genetics of the virus and many established precedents for the spread of disease from animals to humans. .. But he also said he thought he might have been in Wuhan’s lab and fled to start a pandemic, probably because someone had accidentally infected him.

Overall, he said of the issue of viral origin, “I’m not really sure it’s from the lab, but I haven’t done enough research.”

He said the report was considered a “full-base home run” for China. What China wants is “to create a reasonable suspicion that the virus started in China,” he said. And he said the report suggests that the virus could have spread to other countries in Southeast Asia, and perhaps even Europe.

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who did not sign either critical letter, said the report did not provide evidence to support the dismissal of the lab’s possible role. Stated.

“I think the spontaneous occurrence of a pandemic is perfectly plausible,” Bloom said, adding that he agreed with Tedros that the assessment of the accident in the laboratory was not extensive enough and further investigation was needed. ..

Apart from the lab, the report mentions some promising directions for future research, including tracking animal products or animal pathways that may have carried the virus to the Wuhan market. doing.

Peter Daszak, head of the EcoHealth Alliance, who has been accused by Labreak theorists in a previous study at the Wuhan Institute of Vase, said the findings so far are wildlife as the most likely location for animal-to-human spillover. He said he was pointing out the farm. There are many such farms in China and Southeast Asia, and animals such as raccoon dogs and civets are in contact with both bats and humans. According to the WHO report, testing of thousands of animals and animal samples from China, including seafood and other markets, does not provide evidence of the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

The report also states that both mink and cats are likely to be infected by humans and have proven to be potential reservoirs of the virus. Cats have not been shown to infect humans with the virus, but mink is. Although the mink industry is thriving in China, no infections on mink farms have been reported to WHO.

Lucy said the lack of information about mink farms in China was called “mink silence.”

As for human studies, the report suggests that testing blood with blood bank donations from September to December 2019 can be very helpful. The first recorded outbreak occurred in Wuhan’s South China Market in December 2019.

Marion Coupmans, a Dutch virus expert at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said the WHO mission had asked the Wuhan blood banking system to continue donating blood from that period. It was agreed, she said, and now the Chinese seek permission to test the blood for antibodies to the virus that can help identify the virus exactly when it first appears in humans. There is. If such research is extended, it may also help the location.

Koopmans said he hopes that blood donation research will be extended to other states and regions besides China. “My perfect study design is to include the regions of Italy and France where there were signs of possible presence of the virus before December,” she said.

She said standardized testing should be done for all regions of the problem. This may indicate an isolated pocket for the early appearance of the virus. Wildlife testing in such areas may be productive.

Koopmans defended the WHO team’s mission, stating that it was always aimed at scientific research with Chinese colleagues. If research is the goal, “you need to do a test or something, but it’s not scientific research,” she said.

The critics then agree. One of the most obvious sections of the letter from WHO critics is about the composition of the team investigating Chinese laboratories. When the basic rules of the second mission are rewritten, WHO will “incorporate a broad skill set into an international team of experts, including biosafety and biosecurity experts, biodata analysts and experienced forensic researchers. We need to guarantee that, “the letter said.

Read again: What are WHO’s four theories regarding the emergence of SARS-COV-2?

Near the end of the report, when discussing what to do to learn more about potential lab incidents, the report recommends “regular management and internal reviews of high-level biosafety laboratories around the world.” I am. Follow-up of new evidence provided about potential leaks in the lab. “

Metzl said he could not agree any further and said that in the future, such reviews should include US laboratories. But he said the pandemic was the most urgent and he wanted to start in China soon. Still, he and the other signatories of the two letters said he was very interested in virus research around the world.

Many virus and disease professionals want to collect and study viruses as a way to learn more and prepare for outbreaks, but Metsle and others put further restrictions on virus research. He said he wanted.

“It makes absolutely sense to establish a global regulatory system that oversees aggressive work with dangerous or deadly pathogens everywhere,” he said.

James Gorman c.2021 The New York Times Company

The origin of COVID-19 is still unknown, but what is the next step for WHO experts?

Source link The origin of COVID-19 is still unknown, but what is the next step for WHO experts?

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