COVID-19, Bats. The most hated creatures in the world right now, because they kickstarted a pandemic that brought the entire world to a standstill. But with the world beginning to doubt China’s story, scientists are looking into the origins and transmission of the deadly virus in a more discerning way.
The origin of the virus in bats is pretty well-backed by evidence. But COVID-19 has never been found in the wild, raising chances of more possible hosts that passed it on to bats. Another question that remains unanswered is how the virus got transmitted between bats and humans, as the popular ingestion theory seems to be standing on shaky ground, increasing the chances of intermediate transmitters.
According to Arinay Bannerjee, a COVID-19 researcher from McMaster University, “The only way to say with confidence which animal the virus came from is to find it in that species in the wild. Other approaches will only give anecdotal evidence.” This is why the European Union submitted a draft proposal calling for missions to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts.” Some other COVID-carrying animals like pangolins have already been more or less dismissed as intermediate hosts/transmitters of the 19 strain, but scientists plan to scour the globe for coronaviruses in bats, shrews, ferrets, mink and other mammals with similar habitats and life cycles.
The scientists are seeking to conduct in-depth research based around the ‘wildlife farms’ in China, which stock many captive bred animals and are not known for having the best hygiene conditions, and feature frequent human interaction. Alas of course, this depends upon cooperation from the Chinese, which doesn’t look likely right now.