Raccoon dogs responsible for COVID-19?

Raccoon dogs responsible for COVID-19?

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Recently published genetic data revealed that COVID-19 may have come from raccoon dogs in the Wuhan market. This adds weight to the theory that infected animals sold at the site sparked the coronavirus pandemic.

Swabs taken from stalls at the Huanan seafood market in the two months after it closed on January 1, 2020 revealed that the products contained human DNA and COVID-19 particles, but no animal DNA. 

This conclusion has now been overturned by an international team of scientists. Their analysis of genetic sequences published by the Chinese team on the Gisaid Scientific Database found that some of the COVID-positive samples were rich in raccoon dog DNA. Traces of DNA belonging to other mammals, including civets, were also present in COVID-positive samples.

The finding does not prove that raccoon dogs or other animals infected with COVID triggered the pandemic, but scientists presenting the research to a World Health Organization panel on Tuesday say it makes it more likely.

What sparked the worst pandemic in a century has become an intense and often toxic debate. One theory suggests the virus emerged in wild animals and spread to humans at the market. Another suggests the virus escaped from the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers were working on similar pathogens.

The latest genetic data does not prove raccoon dogs or other mammals have been infected with COVID-19 and have spread it in the marketplace. If the animals were infected, they may have contracted the virus from infected humans, but the results point to the possibility that the cause was, in fact, an infected animal and the illegal wildlife trade.