WHO to revive COVID-19 origins probe

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The World Health Organization is convening a team of 20 scientists to revive the probe into the COVID-19 virus, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 26. 

The team, which will include specialists in lab safety and biosecurity, animal-disease experts, and geneticists, will specifically examine the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 could have emerged from a lab, WHO officials told the Journal. The group is part of the WHO's newly launched Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins Novel Pathogens — a permanent panel that will focus on the origins of future pathogens. 

Findings from an earlier report, based on a WHO-led visit to Wuhan, China, where the first COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed, were inconclusive. The previous inquiry team said Chinese scientists did not provide them with sufficient data to establish when, where, and how the virus started spreading. 

The latest attempt to revamp the investigation comes as WHO officials warn the window of opportunity to investigate the pandemic's origins is quickly closing. That's because evidence such as blood samples may be thrown away, and antibodies from the earliest COVID-19 patients may fade to undetectable levels, the Journal reports. 

The Chinese government has resisted further investigation in the country, arguing any new inquiry into the virus' origins should focus on other countries, and declined to say whether it would permit the new research team into the country, according to the Journal report.


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