Dr Michael Worobey, an expert in virus evolution at the University of Arizona, made his way through heaps of public accounts of the first COVID-19 cases, interviews with early patients and journal articles. He claims the World Health Organisation (WHO) inquiry had made a mistake in its ordering. Dr Worobey claims that instead of the WHO’s original patient zero – who lived far away from the Wuhan wet market – the first known case was actually a seafood vendor.
Now, more than a dozen leading scientists have written an open letter slamming the WHO’s report.
Dr Worobey claimed the vendor’s connection to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and analysis of the first hospital patients’ ties to the market show that the pandemic began there.
But some experts have argued that the report does not prove who the real “patient zero” is, as someone may have been infected with coronavirus before the seafood vendor.
David A. Relman, a professor of microbiology at Stanford University, wrote after reading Dr Worobey’s report: “It is based on fragmentary information and to a large degree, hearsay.
“In general, there is no way of verifying much of what he describes, and then concludes.”
Jesse Bloom, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said the data from China on early COVID-19 infections is too weak to offer a strong conclusion.
She said: “I don’t feel like anything can be concluded with high or even really modest confidence about the exact origin of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, simply because the underlying data are so limited,”
The theory that COVID-19 originated from a lab refuses to go away.
But Robert F. Garry Jr., a virologist at Tulane University said that this new evidence disproves that theory.
He said: “Mike’s piece shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that, in fact, the Huanan market was the epicentre of the outbreak.”
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He added: “When the evidence is laid out like this, the association with the market is strong long before anyone realized it — right from the start.”
But Chinese officials have claimed that the Huanan market was not the source of the coronavirus outbreak.
Beijing has claimed that the virus may have been brought to China from overseas, such as from Fort Detrick in Maryland and through frozen food imports.
Dr Worobey’s work was published in the journal Science.