Study Points To “Raccoon Dogs” As Origin Of COVID

The Atlantic reports:

Many scientists have stood by the notion that this outbreak—like most others—had purely natural roots. But that hypothesis has been missing a key piece of proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected creatures for sale there.

This week, an international team of virologists, genomicists, and evolutionary biologists may have finally found crucial data to help fill that knowledge gap. A new analysis of genetic sequences collected from the market shows that raccoon dogs being illegally sold at the venue could have been carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019.

It’s some of the strongest support yet, experts told me, that the pandemic began when SARS-CoV-2 hopped from animals into humans, rather than in an accident among scientists experimenting with viruses.

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Raccoon dogs are a fox-like species native to China, so-named for their raccoon-like facial markings.

Last month a US federal agency pointed to a lab leak as the possible origin of COVID, although they said they had “low confidence” in their analysis.