ISLAMABAD:New studies have suggested that COVID-19 evolved naturally and is far more widespread than previously believed.
“At least four recent studies have identified coronaviruses closely related to the pandemic strain in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia and Japan, a sign that these pathogens are more widespread than previously known and that there was ample opportunity for the virus to evolve,” The Wall Street Journal said.
Another study has found that a change in one amino acid — an organic compound to form proteins — on the spike protein of the virus can allow the virus to infect human cells, the newspaper added.
“These latest pieces of research add to evidence that the virus, called SARS-CoV-2, likely originated in bats and then evolved naturally to infect humans, possibly through an intermediary animal,” it said.
The studies also make clear why a team of experts led by the World Health Organization (WHO) who finished their field study in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month urged looking further afield for data and evidence in other countries, China News service reported.
The WHO expert team, comprising experts from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, Britain, the United States and Vietnam, arrived in China’s Wuhan on Jan. 14 to work with Chinese scientists on origin-tracing of the novel coronavirus.
In early February, the international team concluded their month-long research and presented their initial findings at a press conference in China, ruling out the hypothesis that the virus escaped from a laboratory, and calling for science-based approaches.