The World Health Organization (WHO) rebuked Chinese officials for withholding scientific research that may reveal the origin of the coronavirus, according to a report by The New York Times (NYT).
The WHO, on Friday also asked the Chinese officials about the reasons behind not revealing the data three years ago and why, after it was published online in January, it could not be found now.
An international team of virus experts downloaded and started analyzing the study before it “vanished” into the internet space.
Data corroborate the theory that the origin of coronavirus is from illegally traded raccoon dogs that infected humans at China’s Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, according to the research team.
The experts volunteered to work on the analysis with their Chinese counterparts, but the team was unable to reach the desired conclusion because the gene sequences were removed from a database of scientific information, according to the NYT.
The director general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that the missing evidence “needs to be shared with the international community immediately” and that the data “should have been shared three years ago.”
The study provides proof that raccoon dogs, fox-like animals known to spread coronaviruses, had DNA in the Wuhan market where genetic signatures of the new coronavirus were also found, according to the expert team who was analysing the data.
According to Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, “it’s just very unlikely to be seeing this much animal DNA, especially raccoon dog DNA, mixed in with viral samples if it’s simply mostly human contamination”.
Notably, Cobey was one of 18 scientists who signed an important letter in the May 2021 issue of Science urging careful evaluation of the possibility that the virus may have leaked out of a Wuhan laboratory.