WHO mission believes it is "extremely unlikely" that the coronavirus came out of a lab

Experts will focus on studying direct transmission from animal to human, through intermediate species or frozen food

Javier de la Sotilla
2 min

BarcelonaThe Chinese and World Health Organization (WHO) experts who have travelled to the region of Wuhan to investigate the origin of the coronavirus the Chinese and World Health Organization (WHO) experts who have travelled to the Wuhan region to investigate the origin of the coronavirus have announced Tuesday that there is no evidence that came out of a laboratory. "It is an extremely unlikely pathway," said Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the WHO mission, who added that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was in good condition and that laboratory errors are "extremely strange." The WHO will not further investigate this hypothesis: "It will not require further studies as part of the work to determine the origins of the virus".

The investigation will now focus on the three main hypotheses: a direct transmission from an animal to humans, through an intermediate species or through frozen food. According to Liang Wannian, head of the group of Chinese scientists, transmission from an animal (zoonosis) is likely, but the species has not yet been identified. "Bats and pangolins are potential candidates for transmission, but the coronavirus samples found in these species are not identical to Sars-Cov-2," Liang said. The experts have found a "high susceptibility" of minks and cats, which makes them think that there could be other animals "that serve as reservoirs", but they do not have enough evidence to confirm it.

Research has determined that the virus did not spread substantially through the Wuhan population before the December 2019 outbreak, even though it had likely circulated earlier in other regions. "The team has found evidence of wider circulation outside the Wuhan market in December 2019. The investigation has uncovered new information, but has not drastically changed the picture of the covid-19 outbreak," he concluded.

Thus, the evidence continues to point towards the hypothesis that there was a natural reservoir of covid-19 in bats, but it is unlikely that they were in Wuhan. The head of the WHO mission has said that bats should be specially investigated, not only in China, but also in other neighbouring countries. He also recommends an investigation into the cold chain, as the virus could survive frozen, but there is no evidence that it can be transmitted this way.