China has reportedly tested over 50,000 animals, including thousands of bats, to find evidence of exactly where COVID-19 originated. The search comes after renewed international focus on whether the virus was leaked from the Wuhan lab.
Research started soon after the first case of Covid-19 was officially documented in Wuhan in December 2019. The local wet market where it was thought to have originated soon closed down.
Since then, tens of thousands of animals have been tested – and not just bats. Researchers have also tested pigs, goats and geese, according to MIT Technology Review.
Yet Liang Wannian, the lead Chinese researcher who worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) in its controversial study of the origins of Covid-19, has admitted that the pandemic “remains an unsolved mystery.”
The closest match was a bat virus with a genetic code that was 96.2 percent identical to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to reports.
However, that sample was taken during research on bats in caves in Yunnan province, which is hundreds of miles away from Wuhan.
Also, that research was carried out by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) itself, which has long denied the lab leak theory.
The WIV and its chief scientist, “bat woman” Shi Zhengli, had already found international notoriety with pivotal breakthroughs over SARS, a similar coronavirus that emerged from China in 2003.
With that outbreak, however, researchers were able to quickly find a nearly identical virus in Himalayan palm civet cats and raccoon dogs — both eaten locally — during testing, the MIT Technology Review noted.
The WHO’s report still believes the COVID-19 virus likely originated from bats.
The Wuhan lab also removed its online database of studies in late 2019, just before the outbreak started. Zhengli blamed that move on protecting the lab and its staff from attacks.
Former US national security adviser Matthew Pottinger is among many who believe that it is “very much possible that it did emerge from the laboratory.”
“It’s possible they caused a pandemic they were intending to prevent,” Pottinger told MIT Technology Review.
Jamie Metzl, a technology and national security fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, told the publication that it was “crazy” that there were still no clear answers on what caused the pandemic.
“Everyone on Earth is a stakeholder in this,” he said.