Australian News

Australian news and media publication


A German scientist who is part of a small team of experts brought together by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of coronavirus says they plan to examine samples and medical data from China to help determine where the insect first jumped from animals to humans and what species it came from.
The search for the source of the new coronavirus has sparked claims of cover-ups and fueled political tensions, particularly among the US administration. President Donald Trump and Beijing.

Most researchers think that the virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, originated in animals in China, probably bats, and the WHO has assembled a team of 10 people to examine the science.

Medical staff transport patients to Jin Yintan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei, China.  Local authorities have confirmed that a third person has died from a pneumonia-like virus since the outbreak began in December.
Medical staff transport patients to Jin Yintan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Local authorities have confirmed that a third person has died from a pneumonia-like virus since the outbreak began in December. (Getty)
Residents wearing face masks shop for seafood at a wet market in Macau, China. (Getty)

Mission member Fabian Leendertz, a biologist at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute who specializes in emerging diseases, said the goal is to collect data to better prepare for possible future outbreaks.

“It’s not really about finding a guilty country,” Leendertz said.

“It’s about trying to understand what happened and then seeing if based on that data we can try to reduce the risk in the future.”

In an interview today with The Associated PressLeendertz said the team has already started talks with scientists in China and hopes to travel to the country next month.

They are likely to start in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, although a precise itinerary has yet to be established.

Leendertz, who was part of a previous mission to trace the origins of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said that while “he would love for it to be an Indiana Jones mission” with scientists doing groundbreaking fieldwork, “it is more (…) a team effort with Chinese colleagues to help identify necessary next steps and how to proceed. “

One of the difficulties is that those who contract COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms similar to the flu or other illnesses, or even no symptoms.

City Council health officials spray disinfectant at a wet market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP)
The coronavirus is believed to have spread to humans in a “wet market”, where Chinese vendors sell fresh food and occasionally live or wild animals. (AFP / Getty Images)

This makes tracing the chain of infection much more difficult than with Ebola, which has clear and dramatic symptoms that people remember.

Leendertz said scientists would seek to see if medical samples stored prior to the first known case provide evidence that the virus was circulating earlier than previously thought.

“Then to see where that clue takes us, if it’s another city or if it stays in Wuhan or where it goes,” he said.

Another line of investigation will be to examine the famous Wuhan market that was identified early on as a possible location for the jump from animal to human.

“It may also have been just the first broadcast mega event or one of the first,” he said.

Chinese women dressed in the traditional costume known as Hanfu tour the Forbidden City, which recently reopened to limited visitors, in Beijing, China
Chinese women dressed in traditional costume known as Hanfu walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing, China (Getty / Kevin Frayer)
Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside the Beijing train station.  China has reported a sharp increase in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus, including the first cases in the capital.
Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside the Beijing train station. (AP)
A patient is taken by ambulance to the Princess Margaret Hospital Infectious Disease Center in Hong Kong, China
A patient is taken by ambulance to the Princess Margaret Hospital Infectious Disease Center in Hong Kong, China (Getty)

Tracing the animal in which the virus emerged will be key, and for this, the group will have to take samples from more species of bats and other animals that may harbor it.

Leendertz said the team has not been informed of any restrictions on their work in China beyond the two-week quarantine that all travelers currently face. In total, the mission is expected to last four to five weeks, he said.

“There will be a report from that mission, but I’m pretty sure it won’t give the full answer,” he said, adding that more investigations will likely be needed.

Mr. Leendertz expressed his confidence in China’s “excellent researchers” and said that the data collected by the country’s extensive disease surveillance system would likely prove valuable.

“Also hospital X-rays: now we know quite well what COVID-19 patients are like. … So that could also be a clue, ”he said.

“The big scope is trying to find out what happened,” Leendertz said.

“How the virus jumped from which animal to perhaps an intermediate host and then to humans. To rebuild the stage. “

“The more you know about why these flood events occur, the better you can also verify if there are countermeasures you can take to prevent such transmissions in the future.”


www.9news.com.au

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *