A research paper suggesting Covid-19 originated from raccoon dogs kept in cages at a market in Wuhan has been criticized after it emerged that the data came from Chinese scientists who have now retracted it.
Samples from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan were used for the new study, which comes just weeks after US authorities doubled down on their belief that the virus was leaking from a nearby lab in Wuhan.
But the same samples – never shared with the international community – have previously been studied by scientists in China who concluded that the virus did not come from marketed animals.
On Friday morning, the World Health Organization also said the investigation “does not give us answers about how the pandemic started” and was critical of how the data emerged.
The data was unexpectedly uploaded to an international research database called GISAID last week and downloaded by international researchers who came across them while looking for other information. Within hours of processing this new data, the team discovered traces of the Covid-19 virus in samples that also contained animal genetic material that matched the raccoon dog.
The new study suggests covid originated from raccoon dogs at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Pictured: A caged raccoon dog at the market in 2014
Researchers have cast doubt on the new article. Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who became famous for her divisive research supporting the lab leak theory, claimed the new data came from the Chinese Communist Party as an attempt to cover up the leak.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist involved in the study, said: ‘This is a very strong indication that animals in the market were infected. There’s really no other explanation that makes sense.’ But critics have questioned why the data used in the study was removed by the Chinese scientists who uploaded them
The team contacted the Chinese researchers who uploaded the files and offered to cooperate with the investigation – before the data was mysteriously deleted from GISAID.
The new paper has also not been published or peer-reviewed, raising further doubts about its reliability. The data used came from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Details of the research were first published in The Atlantic, which made the bold claim that the study “provides perhaps some of the clearest and most compelling evidence the world will ever get in support of an animal origin.”
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist involved in the study, said: ‘This is a very strong indication that animals in the market were infected. There’s really no other explanation that makes sense.’
But Dr Stephen Quay, a pharmaceutical CEO who has studied the origins of covid, compared publishing research that relies on data that is no longer available to using evidence that doesn’t exist “in a court of law.”
“You can’t say, ‘I’ve seen evidence of the origin, but I’m not going to show it to you. Just take my word for it,” he told DailyMail.com.
“Especially when these people have previously been untruthful not once but several times. I need to see the data, research for fabrications I know I’ll find, and then publish why it’s a lie.”
Dr. Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told DailyMail.com that the new research “adds little to the discussion” about the origins of Covid and requires “extreme caution.”
He said: “The claim is made by scientists who … almost exactly a year ago spread the widely hyped, but later retracted, false claim that they had “conclusive evidence” that SARS-CoV-2 had emerged from nature. trade with Huanan Seafood Market as “unambiguous” epicenter.
“Their track record of previous false claims on the subject warrants extreme caution with their new claims on the subject, particularly claims for which the data is not presented.”
Dr. Steven Salzberg, a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com it was “highly unusual” for the data to be deleted after it was uploaded. He said it is not possible to draw any conclusions about the study until the paper is available and “preferably after it has been peer reviewed.”
Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who became famous for her divisive research supporting the lab leak theory, claimed the new data came from the Chinese Communist Party as an attempt to cover up the leak.
WHO’s technical lead on Covid, Maria Van Kerkhove, said on Friday: “Unfortunately this doesn’t give us an answer to how the pandemic started, but it does give us more clues.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that the data used for the study “could – and should – have been shared three years ago,” adding: “We continue to call on China to be transparent to be in sharing data and to make necessary investigations and share the results.’
The paper comes a week after FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency concluded a lab leak was the most likely source of the virus.
On Feb. 28, Wray doubled down on the agency’s 2021 findings, accusing the Chinese government of undermining the damning results.
“The FBI has long determined that the origin of the pandemic is most likely a possible lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray said. “You’re talking about a possible leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”
Wray’s comments came after the Department of Energy reached the same conclusion as the FBI.
Wray said last month the virus was likely the result of a lab leak and that the Chinese government has tried to undermine his agency’s work.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning denounced what she called “politicization” of theories about the origins of COVID-19, following an analysis by the Energy Department that pointed to the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan lab
The FBI said in 2021 it had “moderate confidence” that the pandemic gripping the world was the result of an accidental leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Wray said last month the work was being carried out by top FBI and US government experts who specialize in monitoring potential outbreaks.
“The FBI has people, agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologists, etc. who specifically focus on the dangers of biological threats, including things like new viruses like COVID, and the concern that some bad guys might fall into the wrong hands, one or another hostile nation-state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that could pose,” Wray said.
“So here you’re talking about a leak in a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, which is exactly what that capability was designed for.”
Despite the FBI’s conclusion, Wray added that Beijing has continually tried to undermine the work of the US government.
“I will just make the comment that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has done its best to try to thwart and obscure the work here, the work that we are doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing. . do, and that’s a shame for everyone,” he said.