No bats or pangolins were sold at Wuhan wet markets immediately before the coronavirus pandemic started, according to an Oxford-led study.
The research documents a menagerie of nearly 50,000 animals from 38 species, including badgers and boars, peacocks and pit vipers, traded at animal markets in the Chinese city from 2017 to November 2019.
But the team found ‘no evidence’ that a single bat or pangolin was kept at the market, leading them to conclude that these species – frequently blamed for Covid-19 – ‘were not the likely spillover host at the source of the coronavirus’.
Instead, they argued that the scores of wild animals kept in filthy cages and neglected by the merchants provided an abundance of routes for Covid-19 to pass on to humans.
Chris Newman, from the University of Oxford, told Mailonline: ‘Some of these species are known to host a variety of diseases.
‘A few have subsequently been identified as competent hosts of Covid-19, but the main suspected spill-over hosts, namely bats and pangolins, were not for sale in these markets.
‘Our data cannot determine how humans became infected with Covid-19, only that direct contact with pangolins or bats in these markets seems highly implausible.’
The claim emerges amid growing scrutiny over whether the virus emerged from a Wuhan lab and did not pass naturally from animals to humans at all.
The notorious Huanan wet market in Wuhan which has been blamed for spreading the coronavirus. Most of the early theories pointed to bats – but according to the new study, no bats were sold there
A menagerie of nearly 50,000 animals was documented by the scientists, but not a single bat was among the 38 species recorded
Neither was the pangolin, which some have also theorised may have been the source animal of Covid-19
‘Rare’ genome sequence suggests the virus WAS man-made
Two U.S. experts have penned a damning essay saying that science strongly suggests the novel coronavirus was manufactured inside a Chinese laboratory.
The claim was made by Drs Stephen Quay, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics Inc, and Richard Muller, a physics professor at the University of California Berkeley, in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
In the op-ed, the men say their proof lies in genome sequencing, or analyzing the DNA, of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
There are 36 DNA segments – made up of three-letter ‘words’ – that viruses use to make an amino acid known as L-arginine.
L-arginine helps make proteins but is also often used in so-called ‘gain of function’ research, which alters viruses to make them more transmissible and more deadly.
The new virus contains a segment called CGG-CGG, which is considered rare even in experiments in which researchers are trying to manipulate virus.
But even more telling is that this combination has never been found naturally in any other type of coronavirus, including in SARS and MERS, both of which are cousins of the new virus.
‘A virus simply cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence isn’t present in any other virus,’ Quay and Muller wrote.
‘The CGG-CGG combination has never been found naturally. That means the common method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, cannot operate here.’
The authors, whose work was published in Scientific Reports on Wednesday, said the thousands of animals that were traded in Wuhan were ‘capable of hosting a wide range of infectious zoonotic diseases or disease-baring parasites.’
‘The creatures were sold for huge sums. Marmot meat, for example, was five times the cost of pork.
‘This is not subsistence bushmeat, but a costly delicacy,’ Prof Macdonald added.
China claims it has since cracked down on these hotbeds for disease, outlawing the sale of live animals, but more than a year after the first outbreak, people still pack into these markets to buy food, including live fish, frogs and turtles.
The study authors wrote that there is a persistent desire among Chinese people to trade in so-called ‘charismatic species’ which are considered ‘prestige items.’
‘In major part this is because protective legislation has not been enforced consistently, fostering a nonchalant disregard for wildlife exploitation,’ the study says.
Prof Macdonald told The Times: ‘With these huge concentrations of diverse species under one roof… it would seem but a matter of time before some other unwelcome disease might skip into the human population.’
The well-trodden theory that the virus originated from sordid animal cages in Wuhan has faced growing counter arguments over the last month since Joe Biden told his intelligence networks to redouble efforts to probe the lab leak theory.
The move has given the investigation, previously considered a risible notion by the liberal media in the United States after it was promoted by his predecessor Donald Trump, new credence.
The Huanan wet market, where scientists say the first cluster of infections were officially reported, is just a few hundred yards from the Wuhan Centres for Disease Prevention and Control and only a few miles from the the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab, where scientists were reportedly conducting experiments on bats before the pandemic began.
The lab is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission.
Three researchers from the institute sought medical care in November 2019, before the virus began to spread, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.
There are scientists who have claimed for more than a year that the genomic sequence of the virus is such that it must have been engineered by humans.
Marmots and a raccoon dog at the Huanan market in Wuhan
King rat snakes and Chinese bamboo rats which were on sale at the Huanan market
An Amur hedgehog and a hog badger at the Huanan market in Wuhan
An explosive new study obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com last month suggested the scientists created Covid-19 and then tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats.
The paper’s authors, British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr. Birger Sørensen, wrote that they have had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year – but were ignored by academics and major journals.
Dalgleish is a professor of oncology at St George’s University, London, and is best known for his breakthrough creating the first working ‘HIV vaccine’, to treat diagnosed patients and allow them to go off medication for months.
While China has tried to insist the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have begun to contemplate the possibility it escaped from the WIV – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
The idea the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab was at best a ‘fringe theory’ until recently, when the Biden administration ordered a review
Sørensen, a virologist, is chair of pharmaceutical company, Immunor, which developed a coronavirus vaccine candidate called Biovacc-19. Dalgleish also has share options in the firm.
The shocking allegations in the study include accusations of ‘deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data’ at Chinese labs, and it notes the silencing and disappearance of scientists in the communist country who spoke out.
The journal article, which has been submitted for publication, is set to make waves among the scientific community, as the majority of experts have until recently staunchly denied the origins of COVID-19 were anything other than a natural infection leaping from animals to humans.
ORIGINS OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES
US state officials have given momentum to the idea that COVID-19 either leaked from a lab or was man-made by China as some kind of weapon against humanity.
A Wuhan wet market was first thought to be the breeding ground of the virus, where the selling of live, wild animals would have given the perfect opportunity for it to naturally spread between species.
It is thought the virus first developed in bats before passing on to a creature such as a pangolin that then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.
Once it entered humans, the coronavirus is likely to have mutated to survive and then escalated out of control as a result of an unprepared population.
There are also theories that the virus was genetically engineered by scientists, or that it has actually been around for years and even killed people in the past.
Two high security laboratories in the city – the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology – have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it.
The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.
In April, Trump said: ‘We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.’
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed in May there is ‘enormous evidence’ the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but failed to provide any of the alleged evidence.