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Origins of the Coronavirus

· Coronavirus,Science

Origins of the Coronavirus

Much of our planet is under quarantine, lockdown or is awaiting such orders. The Coronavirus has now infected hundreds of thousands, if not millions throughout the globe, no longer is this simply a Chinese pandemic.

Yet, very little is known about the route of this virus, beyond the first city it terrorized, Wuhan.

The Coronaviruses are a very large family of viruses that are able to cause illnesses that differ greatly in severity to the patient.

The first recorded instance of a severe illness caused by a coronavirus can be traced back to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China. A second outbreak of severe Coronavirus illness occurred in Saudi Arabia during 2012, known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

There has been speculation that the virus could have been released mistakenly by the Chinese bio lab that operates in Wuhan.

One theory rests on the idea that an animal was infected with the novel Covid-19 Coronavirus and that after testing was concluded on the animal, a staffer illegally sold it to a food market that specializes in exotic animals.

However, a recently released study seems to debunk such a theory.

It does not appear that the Coronavirus was created in a lab.

This study was heavily funded by a conglomerate of heavy scientific hitters.

The US National Institutes of Health, the Pew Charitable Trusts, UK-based the Wellcome Trust, the European Research Council, and an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship provided funding for the research.

Wellcome Trust’s epidemics lead, Josie Golding, PhD, said that “the findings are crucially important to bring an evidence-based view to the rumors that have been circulating about the origins of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19. They conclude that the virus is the product of natural evolution," Goulding adds, "ending any speculation about deliberate genetic engineering."

The lead scientist on the research, Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research was even more certain of her convictions regarding the source of the novel Coronavirus. "By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes.”

What does seem to be clear is that the novel Coronavirus was introduced to human beings from one host.

And the novel Coronavirus might have evolved from a combination of bats and another exotic animal, one being suggested is the pangolin, which seem to carry a related strain to the virus.

Bats represent ⅕ of all mammals on our planet and are the main spreaders of acute respiratory illnesses throughout the world.

However, the novel Coronavirus needed a combination with another animal to have the ability to invade human cells. According to Professor Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney, "This tells us that viruses that look pretty adapted to humans are present in wildlife. Bats are certainly involved, pangolins may be, but it is very possible that other animal species are involved as well."

Still knowing exactly what the source is still anyone’s best guess. Professor Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London says “The source of the detected coronavirus really is unknown - it might have been a natural pangolin virus or have jumped from another species between capture and death."

Dr Dan Challender, of the University of Oxford stresses how important it is to eventually find the origin of this deadly virus, "Identifying the source of SARS-CoV-2 is important to understand the emergence of the current pandemic, and in preventing similar events in the future."

One worry that will exist even after this epidemic recedes will be the potential of the Covid-19 virus emerging during the next flu season. There is no way to know yet, as this rests on a crucial fact that is unknown to scientists, whether the virus mutated in humans or animals.

Professor Andrew Rambaut explains this “If the SARS-CoV-2 entered humans in its current pathogenic form from an animal source, it raises the probability of future outbreaks, as the illness-causing strain of the virus could still be circulating in the animal population and might once again jump into humans. The chances are lower of a non-pathogenic coronavirus entering the human population and then evolving properties similar to SARS-CoV-2.”

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