UK scientists believe coronavirus outbreak may have actually started in September
| April 17th 2020
The coronavirus has
already infected more than two million people around the world, and now a new
study indicates that the first outbreak may have started as early as September.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have investigated the virus’ origin
to calculate the likely date of the initial outbreak.
Their findings indicate that the outbreak in Wuhan occurred
between September 13 and December 7.
Peter Forster, who led the study, said: “The virus may have
mutated into its final ‘human-efficient’ form months ago, but stayed inside a
bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other
“Then, it started infecting and spreading among humans
between September 13 and December 7.”
In the study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, the
researchers analysed coronavirus strains
using a mathematical algorithm.
While the virus originated in bats, the scientists found
hundreds of mutations between the original Sars-CoV-2 and the one first found
Typically, a coronavirus usually acquires one mutation per
According to the researchers, this indicates that the virus
may have quietly been spreading in animals and humans for years, before
reaching the form we see today.
Dr Forster said: “If I am pressed for an answer, I would say
the original spread started more likely in southern China than in Wuhan.
“But proof can only come from analysing more bats, possibly
other potential host animals, and preserved tissue samples in Chinese hospitals
stored between September and December.
“This kind of research project would help us understand how
the transmission happened, and help us prevent similar instances in the
While there have been several claims that the virus was
man-made, a study last month found 'no evidence' of this.
Researchers from Scripps Research analysed the public genome sequence data for the virus, and have found that
the virus is the product of natural evolution.
Dr Kristian Andersen, an author of the study, said: “By
comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we
can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes.”
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