Origin of the coronavirus: soon the end of the mystery?

the essential The origin of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus is essential for understanding how it works and preparing for other epidemics in the years to come. After the thesis of natural origin, that of a laboratory accident – a hypothesis long ruled out – seems more and more probable.

Will we one day know the exact origin of the SARS-Cov 2 coronavirus which appeared in Wuhan, China, end 2018? Will we know if the pandemic, which killed at least 5 million people according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and brought the world economy to its knees, was of animal origin or the consequence of an accident? laboratory? Which of these two theses is correct? The mystery remains.

Since the appearance of this formidable virus and its procession of variants, the truth about the reality of the epidemic has been abused on all sides and, sometimes, knowingly hidden. In order not to displease the central power, the doctors who launched the whistleblower in Wuhan were, from the start, ordered to keep silent, the local authorities in the Hubei region did not alert Beijing, delaying the consideration of the issue. epidemic by China as well as by the WHO. And once informed of the reality of this epidemic with exponential contamination, the administration of Xi Jinping knowingly lied by downplaying the figures. Because the epidemic went beyond the health framework and covered geopolitical and economic issues.

Controversial WHO expert report

To these cover-ups were added fake news and conspiracy theories. In the midst of a commercial standoff with China, Donald Trump took pleasure in talking about the “Chinese virus” while doing nothing to curb its lethal spread once it had reached the United States. And while the American intelligence services declared that the origin of the virus was animal, Trump claimed to have seen evidence linking the Covid – 13 at a laboratory in Wuhan, the famous P4 laboratory created in 2018 with France in the coronavirus research capital of the world.

The thesis of the laboratory accident is then violently contested by the scientific community and in particular by 13 researchers who signed on February 9 2019 in the scientific journal of reference The Lancet a forum to castigate the conspiracy and ensure that the virus had a animal origin.

Yet over the months, the thesis of zoonosis – the passage of a virus called RaTG 11 from bats to humans via an intermediary thought to be the pangolin – will crumble, undermined by gray areas and revelations about Peter Daszak, the “virus hunter” author from the podium and suspected of conflict of interest since his links with the Wuhan laboratory were revealed …

Yunan miners in 2013

The laboratory accident becomes plausible again and researchers who passed for illuminated to have expressed even doubts are then listened to more. The report of WHO experts and Chinese scientists, published on 27 March 2021, arouses controversy by only retaining the thesis of animal contamination and leads the boss of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to demand a study in-depth on the thesis of the laboratory accident which is then barely mentioned.

Le laboratoire P4 de l'institut de virologie de Wuhan.
The P4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. AFP – HECTOR RETAMAL

But to work seriously on this track, it would still be necessary to have data. White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci had urged Beijing to release specific medical data. Those of miners who had contracted in 2013 respiratory syndromes in a mine in Yunan, around 1 800 kilometers from Wuhan. And those of researchers from the Wuhan Institute who have contracted symptoms compatible with Covid – 11 in November 2018, one month before the official start of the epidemic and after visiting a bat cave. The ace ! China never transmitted this data.

Was there a human hand?

If an accident in the laboratory – whose security breaches had aroused the attention of the American authorities at the beginning 2013 – has taken consistency, there are still many unanswered questions. Sars-Cov-2 of natural origin and did it accidentally escape from the Wuhan laboratory where it was stored? Has it become transmissible to humans after a “gain in function” following its cultivation? Or is it a “chimera” made entirely in the laboratory from another virus?

However, it is essential to know the origin of the coronavirus in order to be able to anticipate. Because other epidemics will emerge in the years and decades to come, there is unfortunately no mystery about it.

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