Rumors circle around COVID-19, but much is still unknown about the novel virus.
COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, is an infectious respiratory illness that attacks the lungs and is spread easily among the public. According to Science Daily, it originated from Wuhan, a city in China and on Dec. 31, Chinese authorities “alerted the World Health Organization” of the virus. They described it as a strain of coronavirus that caused “severe illness” and named it SARS-CoV-2.
Research is still being conducted to find out the source of the virus and its molecular structure. Originally, scientists believed that the virus was transferred from bat meat to a human after purchasing the animal from a seafood market in Wuhan.
However, according to Science Daily, a study came out on Jan. 25, 2020 that the first person that became ill on Dec. 1 of 2019 never came in contact with the market or anyone who visited it. This opens up many theories on how the virus came in contact with the human population and how it evolved.
Based on a genomic sequencing analysis on the virus by many scientists, including Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, the virus is not man-made. They came up with two possible scenarios on how the virus developed and passed to the ground zero patient.
The first scenario is that COVID-19 evolved to its current state through natural selection in a non-human host and then transferred to the ground zero patient, says Science Daily. This is what happened with the past coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.
According to the World Health Organization, SARS developed in people who consumed civet feces in their coffee that contained the virus. MERS originated in dromedary camels when people came into contact with the infected camels.
Because the virus is very similar to a bat coronavirus, scientists believe that the non-host animal for COVID-19 was a bat. There is no true evidence of this information, according to Science Daily, but is a strong possibility due to the likeliness of the virus’s genome to past viruses.
The second scenario is that COVID-19 still originated in a non-human host when it was not pathogenic but evolved to its current pathogenic state when it was transferred to a human. In theory, because the virus was not pathogenic at first, it was undetected and circulated among the population until it developed the right molecular shape to infect people easier.
According to Science Daily, the molecular shape is very similar to the bird flu that is easily transferred between humans. However, some factors of COVID-19, like the more virulent cleavage site, has made the virus more easily spread between people which makes it more of a threat to the public.
Research is still being conducted on the virus on how it originated and how to combat it. As of Sunday at 5 p.m., The New York Times tracker states that over 1.2 million people have contracted coronavirus and at least 67,507 people have died from it. There is still no vaccine for the virus but groups of scientists around the world are working every day to fight COVID-19.