Chinese scientists uploaded data onto an international database that indicated the COVID-19 pandemic could have originated from illegally traded racoon dogs, but the internet doesn’t believe it.
Data from samples collected from the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China in January 2020, found that a stall known to be involved in illegal wildlife trade contained “genetic material from raccoon dogs and the virus[SARS-CoV-2] that causes COVID.”
The data was uploaded to the database by China’s CDC in January, but once international scientists discovered the samples, the Chinese deleted them from the database.
Cultivarium scientist Alexander Crits-Christopher said that once someone on his team noticed the data, she shared it with an international group of virologists, genomicists and evolutionary biologists.
When the team contacted the Chinese data generators, “in the hopes of open communication and collaboration,” the information disappeared.
“The team then immediately alerted the WHO about the presence of the data, and the WHO has helped mediate that communication,” he said.
“All three of the parties above have iterated a shared goal of making data and analyses as open as possible, as soon as possible.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus berated China for pulling the data down and for failing to tell the world about it at the beginning of the pandemic.
“This data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer,” he said on Friday.
“And every piece of data relating to studying the origins of COVID-19 needs to be shared with the international community immediately.”
“This data could have – and should have – been shared three years ago,” Ghebreyesus added.
Virologist Stephen Goldstein, who was able to analyze the data, isn’t convinced that racoon dogs are the source of the outbreak.
He noted that while the animals may have been infected at the market, it’s possible that humans were the ones who infected them.
Goldstein also said it was possible that the virus humans had shed at the market got mixed into the samples.
“What the data showed, the results showed that was presented to us, was that there’s molecular evidence of animals in the market and those animals included raccoon dogs as well as a number of other animal species,” concurred WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
“The big issue right now is that this data exists and that it is not readily available to the international community,” she continued.
“Any data that exists on the study of the origins of this pandemic need to be made available immediately.”
The internet is less than convinced by the theory. “What if a racoon dog broke into the lab and leaked the virus,” someone sarcastically hypothesized.
“The Atlantic is still running cover for China and Fauci… now they’re blaming COVID on racoon dogs,” added comedian Tim Young.
“Bats? Nope. Pangolin? Nope. Gain of function research lab leak in Wuhan? Conspiracy. Must be racoon dogs,” another tweeted.
“They’re scientists and they confused Wuhan Bats and Racoon Dogs?” a Twitter user joked. “What kind of soup were they making?”
“They really do think we are stupid,” someone else commiserated.
“Unless they are talking about Dr. Racoondog of the Corona virus lab in Whuhan, then no.”
“The Racoon Dogs ate my homework too,” one person wrote.