Where did coronavirus actually come from?

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Apr 07, 2020, 02.30 PM(IST) Edited By: Bharat Sharma

File photo of ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronavirus Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

When the first case was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, nobody expected it to infect the whole world

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world into submission: from the biggest economy to the smallest - everything is now at a standstill!

When the first case was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, nobody expected it to infect the whole world.

Also read: Coronavirus spread: China must allow global probe to ascertain origin of COVID-19

But one key ingredient of every pandemic was missed: early mitigation strategies. It was only in the last 30 days that countries scrambled to shut their own countries from the outside world.

Regardless, multiple theories have emerged amid the pandemic. Did the Chinese manufacture it? Did the US send it to China? Is it a Russian virus? Is North Korea behind it? Such discourses rooted in hyper-nationalism barely find any validation in the scientific community. 

Also read: Around 3 lakh coronavirus patients recovered worldwide; 326 cured in India

As the blame shifted from China to its wet markets that sell exotic animals, there still seems to be clarity on where it emerged from.

However, scientists are hard at work to find its origin. It is still widely believed that a bat-infected animal, perhaps a pangolin, infected the first human.

There’s one thing the scientists are sure of - that the virus did not develop among humans, but was contracted from an animal. In biological terms, this is called a “zoonotic spillover”.

A Chinese article published in February claimed that the COVID-19 disease is 96 per cent identical to a bat coronavirus in terms of its genomatic make-up.

Even then, there was no silencing conspiracy theories. A group of 27 scientists from the US wrote a letter in The Lancet. 

Also read: This Asian country is paying 75% wages of 2 million workers this month to beat economic slowdown

"Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus", it said.

They further ascertained, "this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens."

The bat that flew away

Even with such striking similarities, the scientific community is focused on finding the cure and containing the disease, and has not been able to trace the bats that may be carrying the disease, which could resurface later on.

However, it’s not clear whether the virus directly jumped from a bat to human beings or whether it followed a chain of carriers who then gave it to humans, starting in Wuhan.

Also read: From drugs to life-saving paraphernalia: How the dark web is capitalising on pandemic panic!

It is possible that an infected farm animal was brought to the wet market alive - the perfect breeding ground for any viral infection - and was then inadvertently transferred on to humans!

But can we be sure? The upcoming few months will decide!