China's bat caves may hold COVID clues

In the search for clues to the origins of COVID-19, China’s bat caves need exploring to trace genetic elements of the virus.

That’s the recommendation from a member of the World Health Organization-led team investigating the virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Peter Daszak, a zoologist and animal disease expert, said the team in Wuhan had been receiving new information about how the virus led to a pandemic.

He said there was no evidence to suggest it emerged from a lab.

But they were examining the potential link to bats.

"How did the virus get from bats in some of other part in China or Southeast Asia into Wuhan, and that's the real work we are doing here. We're trying to chase back from the first cases back to an animal reservoir, and that's a much more convoluted path, and that may have happened over a period of, you know, a number of months or even years. So it is a process."

"That sort of work, to find the bat, the likely bat source is important because if you can find the sources of these lethal viruses, then you can reduce the contact with those animals, and reduce the behaviors that put us at risk, and prevent pandemics."

One scenario being scrutinized more closely by the team is the possibility that the virus could have been circulating long before it was first identified in Wuhan at the end of 2019.

The investigators have so far visited hospitals, research facilities and the seafood market where the first outbreak was identified.

Video Transcript

- In the search for clues to the origins of COVID-19, China's bat caves need exploring to chase genetic elements of the virus. That's the recommendation from a member of the World Health Organization-led team investigating the virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Peter Daszak, a zoologist and animal disease expert, said the team in Wuhan had been receiving new information about how the virus led to a pandemic. He said there was no evidence to suggest it emerged from a lab, but they were examining the potential link to bats.

PETER DASZAK: How did the virus get from bats in some part of China or Southeast Asia into Wuhan? And that's the real work that we're doing here. We're trying to trace back from the first cases back to an animal reservoir. And that's a much more convoluted path. And that may have happened over a period of a number of months or even years. So it is a process. That sort of work, to find the bat, the likely bat source is important because if you can find the sources of these lethal viruses, then you can reduce the contact with those animals and reduce the behaviors that put us at risk and prevent pandemics.

- One scenario being scrutinized more closely by the team is the possibility that the virus could have been circulating long before it was first identified in Wuhan at the end of 2019. The investigators have so far visited hospitals, research facilities, and the seafood market where the first outbreak was identified.