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Tržnica na Kitajskem. Vir: Adobe Stock
Tržnica na Kitajskem. Vir: Adobe Stock

Scientists are looking for the source of the virus

We already know a great deal about the virus that causes the disease covid-19. Its source, however, remains unknown. What created the virus that stopped the world?

Scientists are, likes detectives, looking for clues that would reveal the details of its origin. In early February, they finally travelled to China under the auspices of the World Health Organization.

The first detected virus infections of humans were associated with market visits in Wuhan. Independent researchers therefore wanted to find out how the virus got there. They presented the two most likely scenarios.

Zmerznjena hrana, ki verjetno ni vir virusa. Vir: Wikipedia
Frozen food which probably isn’t the source of the virus. Source: Wikipedia

The first possibility is that the virus originated elsewhere and came to Wuhan with frozen food. The virus was thus preserved, but scientists do not yet know if it would remain contagious.

Another more likely possibility is that it passed from bats to humans through an intermediate host. The markets in Wuhan sold a variety of animals that could be intermediate hosts.

Vir: Wikipedija
A pangolin could be an intermediate host. Source: Wikipedija

»Knowing the transitions between hosts and what changes they bring to the virus and how they affect the host is very important. This makes it easier to predict where they might occur and take appropriate action,« explains virologist Katarina Prosenc Trilar from the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food.

Novi koronavirus ni ušel iz laboratorija v Wuhanu. Vir: Flickr
The new coronavirus didn’t escape from a laboratory. Source: Flickr

But scientists have ruled out the possibility of the virus escaping from a lab. They checked the security systems of the laboratory in Wuhan and found that this would be very unlikely.

A fourteen-day visit by a group of scientists to China is just the beginning of figuring out what happened.

It was important to establish good relations as the research will continue. Finding the source of a virus can take decades.

Glossary

Intermediate host is an organism in which the virus reproduces and changes.

Points to Consider

  1. Do you know any other viruses that came from animals on to humans?
  2. How is the new coronavirus transmitted today?
  3. Why is the source of the virus so important?

***

The original version of this article was published on February 19th.

English translation courtesy of JL FlannerTotal Slovenia News, an English language website with news from and about Slovenia.

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