The origins of the dreaded coronavirus remains a mystery, even as the pathogen has claimed more than 145,000 people the world over. Bats, pangolins, snakes, wet markets and the Wuhan lab -- all these have been suspected in various measures. The US is now veering round to opening an investigation into the Wuhan virology lab's role in the spreading of the pathogen. More western powers now openly talk about the Chinese role behind the contagion.
When exactly the virus originated and started spreading is as much important as where the virus originated. And this debate will gain more traction in the coming days, with a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge saying that the virus might have actually started spreading as early as September last year.
"The virus may have mutated into its final 'human-efficient' form months ago, but stayed inside a bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other individuals," Peter Forster, geneticist at the University of Cambridge, told the South China Morning Post.
"Then, it started infecting and spreading among humans between September 13 and December 7..." he added.
The Cambridge scientists are trying to find out the location of the 'patient zero', the report said. According to it, early signs indicated that the patient zero might have been from areas to the south of Wuhan. As per existing consensus, the patient zero was from Wuhan city, probably a person from the Wuhan wet market.
The origin of the virus and the timeline of the pathogen are politically highly sensitive topics.The US holds the World Health Organisation (WHO) and China responsible for covering up the spread of the virus. President Trump says China did not communicate the extent of the threat soon enough and that the WHO failed to warn the world in the early days.
After much dithering and international pressure China said in mid-March that it identified the first person in the country who developed the coronavirus infection. The first suspected case of Covid-19 in Wuhan was reported as early as on November 17, according to newly revealed government data. If the latest finding turns out to be true, the Chinese claim will fall on its face.
There was hardly any acknowledgement of the scope of the crisis until late January when the virus epidemic had caused considerable damage in China. Whistleblower claims revealed that the China virus crisis had started in the closing months of last year. Throughout December, cases of infection kept rising in China. When China, and the WHO, dragged their feet through December and January, the virus made inroads into every nook and cranny of the world, triggering a contagion of untold strike power.
The new revelation, which is not peer-reviewed yet, will bring more share of the blame to China, and subsequently to the WHO. The Cambridge team said it used a mathematical algorithm that can map the global movement of organisms through the mutation of their genes.
"By counting the mutations, they could get closer to working out when the first person was infected by a strain that was closest to bat virus, the story says.