Health: Continued Debate on the Origins of Covid

The Story:

A WHO report issued at the end of last month gave new life to a long-percolating theory about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO concluded, in somewhat tentative language, that “the start of the outbreak resulted from a single-point introduction” from animal to human populations around the time the first patients were reported in December 2019. This outbreak, the report suggested, involved a market near Wuhan at which locals buy live animals. But … reaction to the report has focused largely on another hypothesis….

Significance:

Suggestively, Wuhan is home to an institute of virology.

The WHO report quoted above says further, “The analysis of the virus genome sequences also indicates that [the virus involved] is very well adapted to human cell receptors, which enables it to invade human cells and easily infect people.” That statement has attracted a lot of attention, and to many readers it supports the hypothesis that the virus genome was deliberately “adapted,” by humans, in a laboratory, and then escaped from the lab environment, perhaps by infecting a researcher or other lab worker.

In Pill Form:

The controversy is important because future pandemics are very likely. Human settlements continue to press further into previously uncultivated areas, in China and elsewhere, and this process means that there will be other opportunities for inter-species transmission of viruses.

On the other hand, laboratory work on a range of viruses also continues around the world, and the labs have a great variety of safety protocols. If the present pandemic is a consequence of either of those ongoing developments, it would be good to know which one, and to know the details.

 

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