The Wuhan wet market is still the most likely hypothesis for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to members of a World Health Organization (WHO) delegation to China.
Zoologist Dr Peter Daszak, president of NGO EcoHealth Alliance which works in the field of zoonotic disease, said the team had identified a viable conduit between the wet market in Wuhan and to regions where the closest relatives of COVID-19 are found in bats, reported Evening Standard.
“It provides a link and a pathway by which these viruses could convincingly spill over from wildlife into either people or animals farmed in the region and then shipped into the market by some means,” he said.
Mr Daszak said that the theory that the virus crossed into domesticated or farmed animals and got into the Wuhan market was the scenario considered most likely by WHO scientists and their Chinese counterparts.
The scientists said they found no evidence to support theories that the disease leaked from the three virology labs in Wuhan and they had been given access to all three, Evening Standard reported.
Four scientists who joined the month-long mission earlier this year said they had found no evidence to support theories that the outbreak was caused by an accidental lab leak.
During a press conference last month, Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the WHO mission in Wuhan, had stated four hypotheses on how the virus spread but reiterated that “laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population”.
“Our initial findings suggest that introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely passway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research … The findings suggest that a laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population,” the WHO expert had said.
The findings by the WHO were slammed by the United States, raising concerns over the possibility of the Chinese government’s interference in the WHO’s recent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan.
“We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” said Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser.