Since COVID-19 was first recognised as an official disease by the World Health Organisation, there have been many speculations as to how it started.
All that authorities know for sure is that it originated in the city of Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province, which became the first epicentre of the disease.
But Dr Andrew Peters, an Associate Professor in Wildlife Health and Pathology at Charles Sturt University, finally has a definitive answer on the origins of the deadly virus.
“Yes, look, we can be pretty confident originally it came from bats,” Dr Peters said on ABC TV this morning.
While Dr Peters was certain bats first introduced the virus to humans, he said it was “going to be difficult to conclusively say” how the first human transmission happened.
So the bat-soup myth could be true. A Twitter video, which popular Chinese blogger Chen Qiushi shared, depicted Cantonese-speaking diners about to chow down on a bat bouillabaisse at an upscale eatery.
However, it’s more likely that urine and blood was how bats passed on the disease.
“It’s going to be very difficult to conclusively say exactly what event led to the transmission, but certainly looking at other infectious diseases from wildlife to humans we have a few clues,” Dr Peters said.
“There are different routes that these viruses can be transmitted. That includes in urine and blood.”
Two months ago it was reported that a research facility in Wuhan where a worker was covered in bat blood and urine may be ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak.
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“There are a number of mechanisms they (viruses) can be transmitted – for instance, ebola, another good example of an infectious disease from wildlife,” Dr Peters said.
“Ebola is thought to come mainly through again, urine and contact like that.
“HIV originally came through people butchering carcasses of primates, so really close blood-to-blood contact.
“We know that there has to be pretty close contact between the original wild animal and humans. So, it has to be a pretty recent and direct transmission. Most likely that’s going to occur with live animals.”
The virus might have been transmitted to humans from bats, but bats may have caught it from another animal, according to Dr Peters.
“We know that bats are the natural host for the SARS-coronaviruses broadly,” he said.
“The remaining question is whether and what intermediate host it may have gone through.
“The SARS (virus) that first emerged in 2002, the first version we were aware of, went from bats it’s thought to be the palm civet, another intermediate host that infected people.
“There is some evidence that the pangolin is a possible intermediate host, but the evidence isn’t quite there yet to conclusively say that’s the case.”
Thousands of people flooded back to the markets, with live animals including bats, rabbits, rats, wolves and dogs still on offer despite the coronavirus outbreak.