An international team of virus experts have said that the deadly Covid-19 pandemic may have originated in raccoon dogs from the Wuhan market in China.
The new study which is yet to be published is based on genetic data drawn from swabs taken from in and around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market starting in January 2020
The study is led by experts including from the Universities of Arizona, Utah and Sydney and from the Scripps Research Institute.
According to reports, although the Chinese authorities had shut down the market after being linked to the outbreak of Covid pandemic, and the animals cleared out, the researchers got the samples from swabbing walls, floors, metal cages, and carts that are used for transporting animal cages.
The results showed that large amounts of genetic material were a match for the raccoon dog. Raccoon dogs are related to foxes and are known to be able to transmit the Coronavirus.
A virologist at the University of Utah who worked on the new analysis said, "We could figure out relatively quickly that at least in one of these samples, there was a lot of raccoon dog nucleic acid, along with virus nucleic acid.”
Nucleic acids are the chemical building blocks that carry genetic information. However, the team noted that "jumbling together of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected. And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal had spread the virus to people.”
The study further said that another animal could have passed the virus to people, or someone infected with the virus could have spread the virus to a raccoon dog. However, the scientists stated, "Our analysis did establish that raccoon dogs deposited genetic signatures in the same place where genetic material from the virus was left.”
That evidence was consistent with a scenario in which the virus had spilled into humans from a wild animal.