Geneva | An epidemiologist and a specialist in animal health, the world Health Organization (WHO) are travelling to China for an exploratory mission to determine the origin of the new coronavirus, said the organization on Friday.
“They are en route,” said at a press conference virtual spokeswoman of the WHO, Margaret Harris, stating that the two experts were expected this weekend in Beijing.
They must prepare the field to a broader mission that will determine the origin of the coronavirus responsible for more than 550 000 people dead and more than 12 million cases in the world.
The WHO team will have interviews with chinese officials and will determine the places that the future mission will have to visit, ” said Ms. Harris.
“One of the biggest questions is whether the virus was transmitted to man by an animal, and what animal is it “, she recalled. “We know that the coronavirus is very similar to a virus found in bats, but is it passed through an animal intermediary ? This is a question that need to see it resolved “, she continued.
The work of researchers of the Institute of virology of Wuhan, the chinese city where appeared the epidemic the end of 2019, have demonstrated that the sequence of the genome of the new coronavirus is 80% similar to that of SARS, to the origin of a previous epidemic in 2002-2003, and 96% to that of a coronavirus from bats.
The vast majority of researchers agree to say that the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 — the origin of the pandemic — is without doubt born in the bat, but scientists believe that it is passed by another species prior to transfer to humans.
It is this piece of the puzzle that the international scientific community and WHO hope to discover in order to better understand what happened, to better target the practices to risk and avoid a new pandemic.