An international team of researchers reports today that live animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, were the likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed 6.4 million lives since it began nearly three years ago.
“Rigorously combining all available evidence surrounding the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 clearly demonstrates that the virus jumped at least twice from animals to humans at the Huanan market,” said Dr. Marc Suchard, a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of biostatistics. “Identifying multiple transmission events finally puts to rest a single origin from elsewhere.”
Co-led by Suchard, Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, Joel Wertheim of UC San Diego and Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute, international teams of researchers have traced the start of the pandemic to the market in Wuhan where foxes, raccoon dogs, and other live mammals susceptible to the virus were sold immediately before the pandemic began.
Their findings are today published in two papers in the journal Science after being previously released in preprint versions in February 2022.
The publications, which have since gone through peer review and include additional analyses and conclusions, virtually eliminate alternative scenarios that have been suggested as origins of the pandemic. Moreover, the authors conclude that the first spread to humans from animals likely occurred in two separate transmission events in the Huanan market in late November 2019.