Novel coronavirus originated in India, claim Chinese researchers

LONDON: In a shocking revelation, Chinese researchers have claimed that novel coronavirus originated in India last year after it transmitted to humans from animals via contaminated water.
A team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in their latest research that Covid-19, which has claimed over 1.4 million lives with more than 61.6 million infections globally after being declared a pandemic in March, likely originated in India in summer 2019, before travelling unnoticed to Chinese province of Wuhan, where it was first detected, Mail Online reported.
The Chinese authorities had earlier suggested that both Italy and the United States could be the site of the original infection.
In their paper, the Chinese team used phylogenetic analysis – a study of how a virus mutates – to attempt to trace the origins of Covid-19.
Viruses, like all cells, mutate as they reproduce, meaning tiny changes occur in their DNA each time they replicate themselves.
Scientists argued that it should therefore be possible to track down the original version of the virus by finding the sample with the fewest mutations.
They said that using this method ruled out the virus found in Wuhan as the 'original' virus, and instead pointed to eight other countries: Bangladesh, the US, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia.
Researchers went on to argue that because India and Bangladesh both recorded samples with low mutations and were geographic neighbours, it was therefore likely that the first transmission occurred there.
By estimating the amount of time it takes for the virus to mutate once, and comparing that to the samples taken there, they also theorised that the virus first emerged there in July or August 2019.
Researchers further argued that India's poor healthcare system and young population – who suffer less severe symptoms of Covid – allowed the virus to spread undetected for several months.
They speculated that the virus could have spread to the other countries on their list before coming to China, possibly via Europe.
“In this regard, the Covid-19 pandemic is inevitable and the Wuhan epidemic is only a part of it,” they concluded.