The joint international and Chinese mission organized by the World Health Organization on the origins of Covid released its report last week suggesting that for almost every topic it covered, more study was needed. What kind of study and who will do it is the question.
The report suggested pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, focused on the likely origin of the coronavirus in bats. It concluded that the most likely route to humans was through an intermediate animal, perhaps at a wildlife farm. Among future efforts could be surveys of blood banks to look for cases that could have appeared before December 2019 and tracking down potential animal sources of the virus in wildlife farms, the team proposed.
Critics of the report have sought more consideration of the possibility that a laboratory incident in Wuhan could have led to the first human infection. A loosely organized group of scientists and others who have been meeting virtually to discuss the possibility of a lab leak released an open letter this week, detailing several ways to conduct a thorough investigation. It called for further action, arguing that “critical records and biological samples that could provide essential insights into pandemic origins remain inaccessible.”
Much of the letter echoes an earlier release from the same group detailing what it saw as the failures of the W.H.O. mission. This second letter is more specific in the kind of future investigations it proposes.
the report issued last week, as it dismissed out of hand the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, calling it extremely unlikely.
but mink have. China has a thriving mink industry but has not reported any mink farm infections to the W.H.O.
Dr. Lucey said he referred to the lack of information about China’s mink farms as “The Silence of the Mink.”
As to human studies, the report suggests that testing blood in blood bank donations made from September to December 2019 could be very useful. The first recorded outbreak occurred in the Huanan Market in Wuhan in December 2019.
Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said that the W.H.O. mission had asked the Wuhan blood bank system to hang on to donated blood from that time period. That was agreed to, she said, and now the Chinese are seeking permission to test the blood for antibodies to the virus that could help to pin down exactly when the virus first appeared in humans. If such studies were extended, it could help with location as well.