There is significant evidence that large amounts of the virus was present in sewage, all over the place, and an increasing amount of evidence of faecal transmission
Coronavirus may have remained dormant across the globe and emerged when conditions in the environment were suitable for it to flourish – rather than starting in China, a British epidemiologist suggested.
Dr Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), at Oxford, and visiting professor at Newcastle University, claimed that there is growing evidence that the Sars-CoV-2 virus was someplace else before surfacing in Asia, reports The Telegraph UK.
Last week, Spanish virologists announced that they had found traces of Covid-19 in waste water samples collected as early as in March 2019, nine months before the disease was detected in Wuhan.
Italian scientists also found evidence of coronavirus in sewage samples in Milan and Turin, in mid-December, weeks before the first case was detected, while experts found traces in Brazil in November.
The Oxford University expert believed that many viruses lie dormant globally and emerge when conditions are right. It also meant they could vanish as quickly as they arrived.
"Where did Sars 1 go? It’s just disappeared," he said, adding: "So we have to think about these things. We need to start researching the ecology of the virus, understanding how it originates and mutates.”
"I think the virus was already here, here meaning everywhere. We may be seeing a dormant virus that has been activated by environmental conditions,” Jefferson told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview.
"There was a case in the Falkland Islands in early February. Now where did that come from? There was a cruise ship that went from South Georgia to Buenos Aires, and the passengers were screened and then on day eight, when they started sailing towards the Weddell Sea, they got the first case. Was it in prepared food that was defrosted and activated?” he questioned.
He furthered that strange occurrences similar as this unfolded during the Spanish Flu. In 1918, around 30% of the population of Western Samoa died of Spanish Flu, who had no external communication with the outside world.
"The explanation for this could only be that these agents don’t come or go anywhere. They are always here and something ignites them, maybe human density or environmental conditions, and this is what we should be looking for," he added.
Jefferson also thinks that the virus may transmit through the sewage system or shared toilet facilities, and not just by water droplets while talking, coughing, or sneezing.
Writing in The Telegraph, Jefferson and Prof Carl Henegehan, director of the CEBM, called for an in-depth investigation similar to that carried out by John Snow in 1854, which showed cholera was spreading in London from an infected well in Soho.
Exploring why so many virus breakouts took place at food factories and meatpacking plants could uncover fresh transmission routes, they believed. It may be shared toilet facilities in addition to cool conditions of such industries that create the favourable atmosphere for the virus to thrive.
"We’re doing a living review, extracting environmental conditions, the ecology of these viruses which has been grossly understudied," said Jefferson.
There is significant evidence that large amounts of the virus was present in sewage, all over the place, and an increasing amount of evidence of faecal transmission, he said. There is a high concentration where sewage is four degrees, the ideal temperature for the virus to be stabled and presumably activated. And meatpacking plants are often at four degrees.
"These meat packing clusters and isolated outbreaks don’t fit with respiratory theory, they fit with people who haven’t washed their hands properly,” he suggested.
"These outbreaks need to be investigated properly with people on the ground one by one. You need to do what John Snow did. You question people, and you start constructing hypotheses that fit the facts, not the other way around," he concluded.