July 26, 2022

Today: UArizona virus expert to discuss COVID-19 outbreak tied to wildlife sales at Chinese market

NOTE: Even if a reporter pre-registers, they must also be registered with EurekAlert! to access the conference. EurekAlert! registration information can be found here: https://submission.eurekalert.org/Registration.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Led by University of Arizona virus evolution expert Michael Worobey, international teams of researchers have confirmed that live animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, were the likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed 6.4 million lives since it began nearly three years ago.

The teams traced the start of the pandemic to the market in Wuhan, where foxes, raccoon dogs and other live mammals susceptible to the virus were sold immediately before the pandemic began.

Their findings were published Tuesday in two papers in the journal Science, after being previously released in preprint versions in February. The publications, which have since gone through peer review and include additional analyses and conclusions, virtually eliminate alternative scenarios that have been suggested as origins of the pandemic.

Moreover, the authors conclude that the first spread to humans from animals likely occurred in two separate transmission events in the Huanan market in late November 2019.

The two studies provide evidence that COVID-19 originated via jumps from animals to humans at the Huanan market, likely following transmission to those animals from coronavirus-carrying bats in the wild or on farms in China.

In addition to Worobey, the panel will feature the following speakers:

  • Joel Wertheim, associate professor, University of California, San Diego
  • Jonathan Pekar, graduate student, University of California, San Diego
  • Kristian Andersen, professor, Scripps Research
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Media contact:
Daniel Stolte
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2020 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $761 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

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