The combined study of the origin of COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese scientists concluded that the most likely means of transmission of the coronavirus was from bats to humans and that ‘a laboratory leak is extremely unlikely.
The WHO team of international experts visited Wuhan last month, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected. Based on this visit and its study, the WHO team drafted the report.
In the study project, the researchers listed four scenarios in order of probability of emergence of the coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. Topping the list was transmission of bats from another animal, which they said was very likely. The team in its report also said that spread through cold chain food products is possible but unlikely.
Bats are known to be carriers of coronavirus and, in fact, the closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats. However, the report states that the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be decades, suggesting a missing link.
He said very similar viruses had been found in pangolins, which are another type of mammal, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, suggesting they could also be carriers.
On the other hand, the draft report is inconclusive on whether the outbreak started in a Wuhan seafood market that had one of the first clusters of cases in December 2019.
The report, which is expected to be released on Tuesday, is being watched closely as finding the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted he received the report over the weekend and said it would be officially presented on Tuesday.