The researchers made the claim after examining mutations in various strains of SARS-CoV-2
A team of researchers from China’s Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences have claimed that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus existed in India and Bangladesh long before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan in December last year.
In a study titled “The early cryptic transmission and evolution of Sars-Cov-2 in human hosts,” the Chinese researchers claimed the traditional approach to tracing the origin of the virus was flawed, reports UK-based newspaper The Sun.
Most scientists are using a bat virus discovered in Yunnan province of China several years ago as an ancestral reference to the coronavirus, but the bat virus is not the ancestor of coronavirus, the research paper claims.
Instead of the traditional approach to tracing the origin of the virus, the Chinese research team used a method that involves examining the number of mutations in different strains of the virus.
According to the research paper, strains with the most mutations have been around for a longer time and those with fewer mutations are closer to the original ancestor of the novel coronavirus. The least mutated strain was found in eight countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Greece, the US, Russia, Italy and the Czech Republic.
The research paper also said the area of the first outbreak should have the greatest genetic diversity, specifically mentioning India and Bangladesh.
India’s young population, extreme weather and drought created the necessary conditions for the virus to jump to humans, the Chinese researchers allege.
“Both the least mutated strain’s geographic information and the strain diversity suggest that the Indian subcontinent might be the place where the earliest human-to-human SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurred, which was three or four months prior to the Wuhan outbreak,” the researchers added, as quoted by The Sun.
The research paper was posted on SSRN.Com, the preprint platform of medical journal The Lancet, on November 17.
David Robertson, and expert from Glasgow University, called the research paper by the Chinese team “very flawed” and said “it adds nothing to our understanding of coronavirus,” reports Daily Mail.