WASHINGTON: A set of compelling evidence has once again emerged that backs the claims that Wuhan's Huanan seafood and wildlife market was at the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak that has so far claimed over 6 million lives.
Two peer-reviewed studies, published in the journal 'Science' take different approaches but come to the same result that the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan was most likely the epicentre for the coronavirus.
The first study shows that the earliest known cases were clustered around the Wuhan market.
"While early COVID-19 cases occurred across Wuhan, the majority clustered in central Wuhan near the west bank of the Yangtze River, with a high density of cases near to, and surrounding, the Huanan market," the study cited in the journal Science as seen on their website says.
The study is tilted "The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the early epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic."
"All eight COVID-19 cases detected prior to 20 December were from the western side of the market, where mammal species were also sold. Unlike SARS-CoV-2 positive environmental samples, we found that COVID-19 cases were more diffuse throughout the building," the study in the journal Science adds.
The other study uses genetic information to track the timing of the COVID outbreak and suggests there were two variants introduced into humans in November or early December 2019.
The peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science titled "The molecular epidemiology of multiple zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2" and cited by CNN takes a molecular approach and seems to determine when the first coronavirus infections crossed from animals to humans.
According to the study, the first animal-to-human transmission probably happened around November 18, 2019, and it came from lineage B. The researchers further found the lineage B type only in people who had a direct connection to the Huanan market.
"These findings indicate that it is unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 circulated widely in humans prior to November 2019 and define the narrow window between when SARS-CoV-2 first jumped into humans and when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. As with other coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 emergence likely resulted from multiple zoonotic events," the study said.
Despite taking different routes, both studies arrive at the evidence that Sars-Cov-2 was present in live mammals that were sold at the Huanan market in late 2019. According to two studies, the virus was transmitted to people who were working or shopping there in two separate "spillover events", where a human contracted the virus from an animal.
These two peer-reviewed studies come a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that scientists continue to research all possible origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a lab leak.
Kristian Andersen, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, said the studies don't definitively disprove the lab leak theory but are extremely persuasive.
"I was quite convinced of the lab leak myself until we dove into this very carefully and looked at it much closer," Andersen was quoted as saying by CNN.
"Based on data and analysis I've done over the last decade on many other viruses, I've convinced myself that actually, the data points to this particular market."