Where did the Wuhan coronavirus come from, or The Hotbed of new infections

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  01. 02. 2020

I know many people willing to argue passionately that the current Wuhan coronavirus infection originates from a military laboratory. But there’s not a single shred of evidence to support this. On the contrary, even though it was first suspected to have come from snakes, the primary source of the coronavirus infection was bats. Some virologists have been expecting something like this to happen for a very long time, most probably in China. Unfortunately, no one listened to them.

Photo: Simon Song, South China Morning Post Photo: Simon Song, South China Morning Post

Let’s go back to 2002. Back then, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, started to spread from Guangdong Province, China. It was caused by a virus that was assumed to originate from civets. Only later did it turn out that the original source was, in fact, bats. Essentially the same story as with the Wuhan coronavirus. What’s more important, however, is where both stories most probably started. Not in any military laboratory, but an animal market.

Perhaps you’ve been to one of those in Asia. It’s a horrifying experience. Everywhere you look, you see pieces of meat and offal, stressed domestic and wild animals in cages and the corpses of various creatures which fell victim to poachers. You smell urine, faeces and blood. And you feel completely powerless. This animal trade causes suffering to a vast number of living creatures and also endangers many species. And now we have another painful confirmation that these markets are also a hotbed where various organisms swap viral infections that would otherwise stay in their remote corners of the world. The viruses mutate and then embark on their long journey around the planet.

After the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, the Chinese authorities banned the entire trade in wild animals. But only temporarily. And what’s more, it’s not “just” China and Asia. In Africa, the trade in “bushmeat” looks a little different, but no less drastic. After all, the African wilderness is the original source of AIDS and the various forms of ebola. The Wildlife Conservation Society has therefore asked China and all other states to ban these markets and all wild animal trading. Forever. I cannot imagine a more justified request at this time.